Senate parliamentarian rules against including minimum wage in Covid relief bill

While Democrats had pushed for the increase to be included, its removal may actually make it easier to pass the bill, senior Democratic sources believe, because it’ll avoid a messy fight over whether to strip it out of the bill and whether to compromise.

The increase is still likely to be included in the House bill on which the chamber is voting Friday. However, the parliamentarian ruled that the increase to $15 per hour did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate’s reconciliation process. That means that the House will pass their bill, the Senate will have to strip the minimum wage provision out, and then eventually, the House will have to pass that bill again at the end of the process.

The decision marks the end of a multi-weeks effort by the Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, to include the provision in the bill.

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement following the ruling. “We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality.”

But the ruling likely makes it easier for Schumer to get his members in line behind the bill since the rise in the minimum wage had been a key sticking point for moderates like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

There are no viable options to use the procedures in the Senate to keep the wage hike in the bill.

In the House, progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told CNN earlier this week that she would still support the Covid relief package if the parliamentarian were the one to remove the minimum wage provision, but not if politicians had been the ones to take it out. For Ocasio-Cortez, members of her own party removing or lowering the minimum wage would have made the bill fall apart. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive Democrat from Minnesota, echoed those sentiments.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a little known but powerful Senate official, has been thrust into the spotlight this week, with Democrats eager to see whether the minimum wage increase would survive in the President’s relief package. MacDonough is the first woman to serve in the role of Senate parliamentarian — a nonpartisan role — since that position was created in the 1930s.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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