Two weeks ago we discussed the fact that President Biden was about to run into "the most important person no one has ever heard of" - namely, the parliamentarian.
The sudden interest in the obscure official was because the parliamentarian determines which laws can be repealed (or passed) using budget reconciliation, the procedure by which the Senate can avoid a filibuster and allow legislation to pass by a simple majority.
This makes the parliamentarian the powerful procedural traffic cop on Capitol Hill, as all of the headlines asserted. MacDonough stopped Republicans cold when they tried using reconciliation to repeal some provisions of Obamacare, and she might soon rule that a provision in the COVID relief bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 is out of order.
Well, tonight we just discovered how powerful she is as Axios reports that the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the minimum wage increase cannot be included in the Democratic COVID-19 stimulus package.
The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Democrats' $15 minimum wage provision cannot be included in President Biden's COVID relief bill.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 26, 2021
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough was playing referee under what’s known as the “Byrd Rule,” a 1980s construct of then-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and master of Senate procedures. The rule requires that anything done under the cover of the budget must be central to the country’s fiscal situation.
Extraneous provisions can be struck by the motion of a single senator, and it requires 60 votes to waive the rule - the same threshold as a filibuster.
We do note that Vice President Kamala Harris could overrule the decision, but the administration has signaled they will not do so (especially with Manchin already signaling he is not comfortable with $15).
“We’re going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed,” Mr. Klain said on MSNBC.
This is a significant blow to the more progressive wing of the party who have insisted the $15 minimum wage bill be a part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
This means that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support.
Bear in mind that Republicans have introduced their own versions of bills to increase the minimum wage.
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) proposed an increase to $10/hour by 2025. This bill, however, contains a provision that would mandate E-Verify for all employers to ensure the rising wages go to "legally authorized workers," which likely would not get any Democratic support.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced an alternative to the Democrats' proposal that would use federal dollars to increase low-earning workers' income. One foreseeable problem: the subsidy would disproportionally benefit those in states that have kept their minimum wages low.
But, of course, Bernie and his pals won't stand for anything less than $15!