Sorry, Senate Parliamentarian Says We Can't Have Nice Things : (
The Senate parliamentarian ruled yesterday that the Senate can't increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour through the budget reconciliation process, because of an ancient 1985 Senate rule that nobody cares about except Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), out of delusional home-state devotion to Robert Byrd. Because them's the rules, the minimum wage hike won't be included in the Senate version of Joe Biden's Money For 'Merica Pls economic rescue bill. Under existing Senate rules, any minimum wage increase would have to get 60 votes, and there aren't ten Republicans willing to vote for a $15 minimum wage, unless maybe you mean $15 a day.
Biden has already made clear he will stand by the parliamentarian's decision, so it looks unlikely that simply ignoring it is going to be in the cards. So what do Democrats do now to pass the minimum wage increase they ran on? Let's take a look at some options!
1: Ignore The Parliamentarian, Who We Didn't Vote For
That's an actual option, in fact, although as we say, Biden has already nixed it since it would amount to a de facto end to the filibuster. Even though it's off the table, several Dems have made a strong case for doing it anyway, so let's see how it would work. Basically, as the Senate's presiding officer, Vice President Kamala Harris, as President of the Senate, could just overrule the parliamentarian and say that for this bill, we're including it. Really, that's about it. As Politico notes, that tactic was advocated by Ted Goddamned Cruz in 2017, when parts of the attempt to eliminate Obamacare were nixed by the parliamentarian.
It's a popular idea — among progressives, at least. Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, said on the Twitters yesterday the whole thing is ridiculous:
The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion. The VP can overrule them—as has been done before. We shoul… https://t.co/9bKc0EO9cC— Pramila Jayapal (@Pramila Jayapal)1614293460.0
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) said much the same, noting the parliamentarian is not the boss of America.
I’m sorry—an unelected parliamentarian does not get to deprive 32 million Americans the raise they deserve. This i… https://t.co/uO6JDYbpMs— Ro Khanna (@Ro Khanna)1614300287.0
Also too, see Stephen's excellent rundown of the many, many reasons that moribund Senate rules are well past their prime, and mostly just serve to keep progress from being made.
For all that, there's not much chance Biden will change his mind on this. At least not yet.
2. Fire the Parliamentarian, Hang the DJ, Save The Cheerleader
That one's even less likely, although it has been done, Politico reminds us:
In 2001, when Senate Republicans didn't get the reconciliation rulings they liked, they replaced him with a more pliable procedural referee.
So far, only Rep Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) has actually called for doing that, and nobody in the Senate seems receptive to the idea.
3. Do A Minimum Wage Increase Ten Republicans Will Vote For
Again, not bloody likely, although that's the option Biden says he'll pursue now. Who knows — maybe it could happen? Some Republicans have proposed an itsy bitsy minimum wage hike, to $10 an hour, which is of course paltry, but it does include one sweetener progressives really want: it would automatically index the minimum wage to the annual rate of inflation. BUT, in its current form, that would mean we'd end up with a minimum wage that would remain pegged to $10 in 2021 dollars forever. (Combine a $15 wage with automatic inflation indexing, and you'd really be looking at the creation of a living wage.) The other potential downside to that GOP proposal is that it would mandate all employers use the E-Verify system to block hiring of undocumented workers, which a lot of of progressives are not on board with.
Politico suggests that if a compromise for an amount higher than $10 could be worked out, "indexing for inflation would be a major progressive victory that could be worth the longer phase-in."
4: Do A De Facto Minimum Wage Hike By Other Means
Senate progressives were ready with a Plan B when the parliamentarian's ruling came down Thursday night: an amendment that would penalize big companies that don't pay a $15 minimum wage and offer small businesses incentives to do so.
That's being proposed by Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Sanders said in a statement last night that the amendment "must be included in this reconciliation bill." Can it get the support of Joe Manchin? Shruggy emoticon ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ !
One thing that's certain is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already pledged that the House version of the
stimulus disaster relief bill, set to be passed today, will include the $15 minimum wage. Once it goes to the Senate, expect a vote on a standalone version of the $15 minimum wage, to get Republicans on record as opposing it. Combined with other likely GOP obstruction votes, there's still a slim chance Senate Dems can be persuaded by angry voters to get rid of the filibuster and pass legislation that's overwhelmingly popular -- for fuckssake, even as they gave Donald Trump the state's electoral vote, Florida voters passed a $15 minimum wage in November. Overwhelmingly.
Nobody but nobody — other than Republican members of Congress — is going to say they would rather have an old Jim Crow rule in the Senate more than they want more livable wages.
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