Sanders 'confident' $15 minimum wage would be allowed via reconciliation

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Bernie Sanders is “confident” lawmakers would be able to raise the minimum wage to $15 via the reconciliation process, the Vermont senator said Saturday.

With little Republican support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, Democrats have pushed to include a $15 minimum wage via reconciliation, a move that could help avoid a GOP filibuster but would have to be approved by the Senate parliamentarian.

While Biden is not optimistic a minimum wage measure would pass under reconciliation rules, Sanders, the new chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is confident the parliamentarian would greenlight it.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not incidental to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation,” Sanders said in a statement. “The CBO has found that the $15 minimum wage has a much greater impact on the federal budget than opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the individual mandate penalties — two provisions that the parliamentarian advised did not violate the Byrd Rule when Republicans controlled the Senate.“

"I’m confident that the parliamentarian will advise next week that we can raise the minimum wage through the reconciliation process."

Under the Byrd rule, the Senate can’t include "extraneous matter" via the reconciliation process. The Byrd rule considers provisions that don’t change revenues or outlays to be “extraneous,” or makes changes to revenues or outlays that are "merely incidental."

Sanders’ argument leans on a Congressional Budget Office report that found the minimum wage increase would drive up the deficit by $54 billion over a decade.

The CBO’s report found the increase would move close to a million people out of poverty but would cost the nation 1.4 million jobs.

Biden has not been as confident as the Vermont Independent about the prospects of minimum wage working via reconciliation, though he supports a $15 minimum wage.

“I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told a group of mayors and governors last week. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.”

Even if the parliamentarian approves the minimum wage hike, moderate Democrats may not all be in support of the move via reconciliation, which could imperil the legislation. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has said a minimum wage increase isn’t "appropriate" for reconciliation.

"It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there," Sinema previously told POLITICO.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, agrees with Biden. Speaking on Fox News Saturday morning, Cardin said he supported a minimum wage increase but the Byrd rule poses challenges.

"He’s expressing the reality of where we are in the United States Senate,” Cardin said.

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