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COVID-19 bill can’t include $15 minimum wage hike, Senate referee says

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Democratic-controlled Senate cannot include President Joe Biden’s proposed $15 per hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill the party aims to pass without Republican votes, the body’s parliamentarian ruled.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, found the minimum wage hike must be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, Democratic Senate aides Thursday told the Associated Press. Democrats are on track to push a sprawling COVID-19 relief measure through the House on Friday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling “disappointing” and said the minimum wage provision will remain in the bill the House will vote on Friday.

“House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow. Democrats in the House are determined to pursue every possible path in the Fight For 15.”

Progressives seeking to maximize Democratic control of the White House and Congress have wanted party leaders to push aggressively on the issue. The proposal would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years, well over the $7.25 in effect since 2009.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the $15 minimum wage in the relief bill and other moderates have expressed concerns too, making it uncertain that Democrats could rally the support they’d need to prevail, even if MacDonough had ruled otherwise.

That suggests Democrats could well lack the strength they need for it to survive. Democrats control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote and can’t lose any of their senators to prevail. Republicans solidly oppose the hike to $15.

The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009.

While Biden supports the increase to $15, initially proposing its inclusion in the American Rescue Plan, a statement from the White House tamped down speculation over a rarely used option to ignore the parliamentarian’s view and keep the provision in the bill with the Democrats’ 51 votes. The statement noted Biden’s disappointment in the outcome but said he “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”

President Biden is 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. 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. He urges Congress to move quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes $1400 rescue checks for most Americans, funding to get this virus under control, aid to get our schools reopened and desperately needed help for the people who have been hardest hit by this crisis.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JEN PSAKI

While the parliamentarian’s ruling means the Senate version of the bill won’t include a provision for a federal minimum wage increase, Congress could pursue a federal minimum wage hike in free-standing legislation or attach it to legislation expected later this year that is to be aimed at a massive infrastructure program.

Even still, they’d face the challenge of garnering 60 Senate votes, a hurdle that has prevented Democratic attempts to boost the minimum wage for over a decade.

Download the free NewsNation Now app to receive updates on this developing story.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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