The White House insisted that President Joe Biden was still “committed” to raising the minimum wage to $15, despite a major stimulus block.
Brian Deese, the White House National Economic Council director, made the statement when appearing on MSNBC on Friday morning.
“We’re going to consult with our congressional allies ... congressional leadership today to talk about a path forward on how we can make progress urgently on what is an urgent issue,” Mr Deese said about the federal minimum wage.
MSNBC’s Will Geist then asked if the president was still “committed” to passing the minimum wage increase through the American Rescue Plan – which was created to address the current Covid-19 crisis – despite the Senate parliamentarian ruling on Thursday that said the $15 increase violated the reconciliation process.
“Absolutely,” Mr Deese responded. “The president has campaigned on the $15 minimum wage, he believes in the $15 minimum wage, he’s committed to getting it done.”
The path to passing the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan with the increased minimum wage to $15 grew more difficult following a ruling by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough on Thursday. She ruled that the wage increase violated the strict guidelines for reconciliation, which was how Senate Democrats intended to pass the stimulus package.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont indicated that Democrats would now attempt to find a backdoor to pass the wage hike following the ruling.
“It is hard for me to understand how drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was compliant with the Byrd rule, but raising the minimum wage is not,” Mr Sanders said in a statement when criticising the parliamentarian’s decision. He was referring to the 2017 GOP tax law that passed through reconciliation.
Mr Sanders then proposed that Democrats pass “an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages.”
Several Democratic senators indicated they would support a proposal similar to what Mr Sanders suggested, including Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.
“I’m looking at a tax penalty for mega-corporations that refuse to pay a living wage,” Mr Wyden said.
But the question remained on if Senate Democrats could figure out a solution to the minimum wage increase while attempting to pass the American Relief Plan ahead of 14 March, which was when enhanced unemployment insurance would expire.
The House of Representatives were set to vote on the package Friday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the minimum wage increase would remain in the package because House Democrats “believe that the minimum-wage hike is necessary.”
The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009, this despite the cost of living significantly increasing over the last 11 years.
One key Democrat to watch was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has indicated he would not support increasing the minimum wage to $15 over concerns of its impact on his state’s local businesses. Whether he would support Mr Sanders’ tax proposal remained unknown.