Chair of the Senate Budget Committee Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday he’s confident Democrats can pass a proposed minimum wage increase as part of the next stimulus bill without Republican support, despite uncertainty over the rules governing the limitations of budget reconciliation, a procedure Democrats are using to bypass Republican support for the next relief package.
Following discussions with the Senate parliamentarian, which studies and interprets the chamber’s rules, Sanders told CNN Saturday that the minimum wage increase has a “much greater impact” on the federal budget than two provisions previously passed by Republicans under reconciliation.
Sanders said that precedent makes him “confident” the parliamentarian will decide the proposal satisfies the Byrd Rule, which dictates that any provision passed under reconciliation must be related in some way to the federal budget.
Earlier this month, Sanders pointed to a study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that concluded a $15 minimum wage would increase the deficit by less than $1 million over 10 years, and other studies indicating it could actually reduce the deficit, therefore showing it would have a “direct and substantial impact on the federal budget.”
Sanders says the parliamentarian will decide next week whether the plan can move forward in the stimulus plan; the House is slated to vote on the package by Friday.
Dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, the proposed plan would immediately increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, from $7.25 currently, with gradual annual increases until the hourly rate hits $15 in 2025.
The evenly split Senate means all 50 Democrats will need to be on board in order for the relief bill to pass with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden’s lofty $1.9 trillion proposal will likely need to be trimmed to satisfy the party’s most conservative lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).
“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process,” Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said earlier this month, fueling doubts that a stimulus bill can pass with the proposed minimum wage increase. “It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”
What To Watch For
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday he expects President Joe Biden will sign another round of relief before March 14, when enhanced federal unemployment benefits granted under the last relief bill in December are set to expire.
Sanders is slated to meet with the CEOs of Walmart and McDonald’s on Thursday in a hearing entitled, “Why Should Taxpayers Subsidize Poverty Wages at Large Profitable Corporations?” A discussion on minimum wage is expected to be part of the agenda.