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Senate nixes Dems’ minimum wage increase in COVID relief bill, ‘disappointed’ Pelosi says it stays

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Democrats were dealt a blow over their aspirations of passing a $15 an hour federal minimum wage boost included in President Biden’s COVID relief bill when the Senate Parliamentarian struck it down on Thursday for procedural reasons.

In a statement Thursday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling “disappointing.” She vowed that the minimum wage increase provision will be kept in the bill and proceeded to proclaim that it would “remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow.”

The parliamentarian ruled that the provision does not comply with the rules governing the budget process that Congress utilizes to pass the bill using simple majorities.

The ruling makes the provision ineligible to be included in the legislation. The Democrats are reportedly planning on utilizing the budget reconciliation process for the coronavirus bill to avoid a Senate GOP filibuster.

Video Credit: Fox News

“The parliamentarian’s ruling means that any senator could raise a point order against the minimum wage increase, which would force the provision to be axed from the bill,” Politico reported. The measure is now almost certainly doomed as it heads for a vote in Congress.

The move by the Senate Parliamentarian was not unexpected. Biden has previously warned that he suspected that the minimum wage increase would not survive the reconciliation review. He conceded that a broad coalition would have to be formed with the Republicans to get the increase through.

When asked about the development, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the president was “disappointed” but he “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.” She also stated that Biden will work with Congress to “determine the best path forward” concerning the minimum wage, but he “urges Congress to move quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan.”

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” responded Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality.”

The Byrd rule ostensibly requires that legislation “has an effect on the federal budget and that it is not ‘merely incidental’ to that effect in order to qualify to pass through reconciliation.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, was jubilant over the ruling and released a statement on it.

“Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation,” Graham said. “This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote. This decision will, over time, reinforce the traditions of the Senate.”

Bernie Sanders was less than happy about the ruling and is not giving up.

“In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages,” he stated. “That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill.”

Some are saying that Vice President Kamala Harris has the authority to disregard the parliamentarian and her ruling. She can, in effect, rule the wage boost as compliant with the rules. The White House is allegedly denying that move is under consideration.

A Biden administration official reportedly told CNN that they see the ruling as “clearing the way” for the bill’s passage in the Senate.

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