The Covid Relief Bill Heads to the Senate...Without That Minimum Wage Increase

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Photo: Stefani Reynolds (Getty Images)

The House of Representatives passed the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief bill on Saturday, providing one (1) metric hopeunit to those of us still capable of faking optimism. Per the Associated Press, the $1.9 trillion bill includes: payments of $1,400 to individuals, an extension on emergency unemployment benefits through August, and billions of dollars for a bunch of things like schools, governments, covid-19 vaccines and testing, renters, and industries hit especially hard by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

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One key provision the House approved that will not make it to the Senate is the one that would’ve raised the federal minimum wage up from the appalling $7.25 floor it’s been stuck at since 2009 to a moderately less appalling $15 an hour. That’s because the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ordered that the chamber drop the measure on Thursday, The New York Times reports.

(Sidenote, who is this lady?? I’d personally never heard of her before this week, despite her apparently having enough power to decide whether or not low-paid workers starve. Did I mention she makes close to $200,000 a year? Rage-o-ramaaaaaaa...)

“What is so upsetting about the Parliamentarian’s decision is you got 60 percent of the American people [saying] they want to raise that minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said during a CNN interview this weekend. “The House has already passed that legislation. The President wants it. We have the votes in the Senate. Yet, an unelected staffer in the Senate decides that 30 million people cannot get that wage increase?”

Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee and introduced a stand-alone Raise the Wage Act in January, per NPR, has said that he and other senators are already “looking at alternatives,” such as legislation that would raise taxes on large corporations “making a lot of money” like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s for paying workers “starvation wages.”

“We think that is an approach,” he added. “That is not the ideal approach, but it is an approach that will raise the minimum wage for millions of workers.”

DISCUSSION

By
eoghan01

The House has already passed that legislation. The President wants it. We have the votes in the Senate. Yet, an unelected staffer in the Senate decides that 30 million people cannot get that wage increase?

This is misleading in a couple of ways. First, my understanding is that they don’t have the votes, because at least two Democrats (and all Republicans) are opposed (at least to increasing it to $15/hour). Second, the parliamentarian didn’t decide that the minimum wage increase can’t be passed, just that it can’t be passed as a part of the current (filibuster proof) bill. But I do share his frustration that the increase is (probably) not going to happen, at least in the near future. Maybe it will be more effective at the state level.