February 15, 2021

Democrats Weighing Strategies for a Minimum Wage Hike in COVID-19 Relief

Summarized from Jade West, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost 1.4 million jobs and increase the deficit by $54 billion over 10 years.

The minimum wage proposal in Congress has split the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party from moderates such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) who has said that he does not support the proposal. President Joe Biden said in an interview last week that he did not expect the measure to make the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package currently under consideration by Congress. However, progressives, union leaders, and activists are demanding that the Biden administration use every tool available to make sure its massive coronavirus relief package includes an increase in the minimum wage.

President Biden’s team is leaning heavily against the idea of having Vice President Kamala Harris use her powers as president of the Senate to keep the minimum wage provision inside the relief package. She could do so if the Senate parliamentarian determines that hiking the minimum wage to $15-an-hour does not work with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate. Harris, at that point, could be the tie-breaking vote to bypass the parliamentarian.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and other progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), are optimistic that the parliamentarian will rule that the minimum wage hike is germane to the budget process. And they are also beginning to lay the predicate for the parliamentarian to be overruled if that determination isn’t made.