WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Democratic Senate aides said Thursday.
The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, comes as Democrats prepare for House approval Friday of an initial version of the $1.9 trillion package that still includes the minimum wage boost.
It also forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts.
The Senate aides confirmed the parliamentarian’s decision to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it hadn’t yet been released.
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.
But Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the minimum wage hike in the relief bill, and other moderates have expressed concerns, too.
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.