White House: Kamala Harris will not overrule Senate parliamentarian on minimum wage hike

Putting an end to fervent speculation among progressives, the White House said this week that Vice President Kamala Harris will not overrule a decision by the Senate parliamentarian that cuts a proposed federal minimum wage hike from the latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package.

“Certainly that’s not something we would do. We’re going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said during an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday, the Washington Examiner reported.

The decision devastated many on the left, who hoped that Harris would step in to save the provision at the last minute.

$15 Minimum Wage setback

Progressives have been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage, and the Democrat-controlled House voted to include a provision that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 in the latest massive pandemic spending bill. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

However, since Democrats chose to force the pandemic aid package through the House with a simple majority vote using a procedure known as budget reconciliation, it is now subject to a Senate rule that does not allow extraneous items to be included in the bill.

The Senate parliamentarian, a bipartisan official, announced Thursday that the minimum wage hike was not qualified to remain in the Senate version of the package under the Byrd rule.

Pelosi, Biden respond

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the provision will remain included in the House pandemic aid bill, which is expected to get a vote on Friday.

“House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the floor tomorrow,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “Tomorrow, when we pass the American Rescue Plan, the American people will know that Help Is On The Way.”

President Joe Biden was “disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan. He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty.”

Other options

Democrats are already looking for other ways to push the minimum wage up, including by cutting tax deductions for corporations who pay lower wages. This angle has received approval from both sides of the aisle, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). In a statement on Friday, Hawley said:

“For decades, the wages of everyday, working Americans have remained stagnant while monopoly corporations have consolidated industry after industry, securing record profits for CEOs and investment bankers. Mega-corporations can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour, and it’s long past time they do so, but this should not come at the expense of small businesses already struggling to make it.”

Meanwhile, other Republicans are also moving forward on wage increases — though on a more conservative scale. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) have put forward a joint proposal to raise the wage to $10 over five years.

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