The Senate’s non-partisan parliamentary adviser told Democrats on Thursday night that increasing the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour shouldn’t be included as part of their broader coronavirus stimulus plan under Senate rules.
The guidance means that Democrats likely won’t be able to secure the wage hike through the so-called “reconciliation” budget process, which they’ve chosen to guide the coronavirus bill through the Senate. (The reconciliation process requires less votes than the full 60 that’s usually necessary to overpower a filibuster from the opposing party).
Democratic leaders reacted with disappointment on Thursday.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer in a statement. “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.”
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has made raising the wage one of his signature issues along with other progressives, also criticized the decision, but said he’d keep pushing for the $15-an-hour rate through other methods.
“I strongly disagree with tonight’s decision by the Senate Parliamentarian,” Mr Sanders wrote on Thursday in a statement.
“Because of the archaic and undemocratic rules of the Senate we are unable to end starvation wages in this country and raise the income of 32 million struggling Americans,” he added. “That fight continues.”
The senator suggested adding a provision that stripped tax deductions from “large, profitable corporations” that didn’t pay a $15 minimum wage as part of the coronavirus package.
The pay boost is still in the language of the House coronavirus proposal that’s up for a vote on Friday, so it’s unclear how Democrats will move forward with their agenda after the guidance.
Congressional Republicans have objected to efforts to raise the federal minimum – which is even lower for tipped workers – as part of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package proposed by the White House.
Democrats’ proposal would gradually raise the federal minimum by $2.25 every year through 2025. Every year after that, the wage would be indexed to median wage growth.
Republican senators Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney have proposed the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, which would raise the federal hourly minimum from $7.25 to $10 over a five-year period.
GOP senator Lindsey Graham applauded the decision.
“This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change—by either party—on a simple majority vote,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “This decision will, over time, reinforce the traditions of the Senate.”