Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’s working with the Senate’s parliamentarian to see if a minimum wage increase can survive the Senate’s rules, though he declined to say whether he was confident it would pass muster under the chamber’s arcane procedures.
Led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), many in the Democratic caucus are hopeful that their pursuit of a coronavirus relief bill without GOP votes can include a $15 minimum wage increase. But President Joe Biden, himself a longtime former senator, has raised doubts about the pay increase surviving a challenge to it.
At a press conference flanked by 10 committee chairs on Tuesday morning, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Democrats “are trying to work as well as we can with the parliamentarian to get the minimum wage. That’s all I’m going to say.” He would not respond to Biden’s prediction that the minimum wage would get tossed out under Senate rules.
“No more questions,” Schumer said after the press conference as he walked to his office. “I said all I’m going to say.”
Biden told CBS of the minimum wage over the weekend: “I don’t think it’s going to survive.” There are strict rules that govern whether certain provisions are able to be included in a budget reconciliation bill, which allows the Senate majority to pass legislation without having to overcome a filibuster’s 60-vote requirement.
Senators and staffers are able to lobby the Senate’s parliamentarian over whether provisions in a reconciliation have an effect on the budget. Democrats will argue it does, particularly with the Congressional Budget Office finding that raising the wage to $15 would increase the budget deficit $54 billion over 10 years.
Senate Republicans have quietly been girding for battle while Democrats steam ahead. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met privately on Monday afternoon to discuss reconciliation strategy with GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, three of the leading Republicans seeking bipartisan talks with Democrats.
And while Democrats still say they’d prefer a bipartisan package, they’ve shown little interesting in negotiating downward with the GOP. That means Republican leaders are preparing to contest certain provisions of the bill with the Senate parliamentarian, who will ultimately rule whether things like the minimum wage can be included in a party-line package, according to GOP aides.
Democrats could also seek to overrule the parliamentarian and load up their bill with whatever they want. But many senators liken that to killing the legislative filibuster by another means.
Moreover, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said he would only increase the wage to $11 an hour even if the minimum wage provisions survive the parliamentary battle. Democrats control 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie, but the party has no margin for error as it pursues a party-line legislative strategy for Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill.
Schumer pointed to the party’s triumph in passing a budget resolution as reason to believe they will stand together when the final coronavirus bill comes to the floor.
“Look at what happened last week. Democrats had great unity,” he said.
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