Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the debate over raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour "utterly embarrassing," and reiterated her push for the Biden administration to override the Senate parliamentarian and include a pay floor increase in the Democrats' coronavirus relief package.
"It is utterly embarrassing that 'pay people enough to live' is a stance that’s even up for debate," Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted on Tuesday night. "Override the parliamentarian and raise the wage."
Ocasio-Cortez's comments come one week after Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate's legislative rule-keeper, determined that increasing the minimum wage is not compliant with budget reconciliation rules, the tactic that Democrats are using to pass the stimulus bill with a simple majority.
The ruling dealt a major blow to liberal lawmakers, who have tried for years to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 and viewed President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package as the best vehicle to do so. The proposal from House Democrats would have gradually increased the pay floor to $15 an hour by 2025 — which Ocasio-Cortez described as a "deep compromise - a big one, considering the phase in."
Despite almost instant pressure from progressives for Vice President Kamala Harris to overrule the parliamentarian as president of the Senate, the White House has ruled out that option, saying they respect the ruling.
The minimum wage increase already faced an uphill battle in the Senate, and it's unclear whether the provision would have become law even if the parliamentarian allowed it: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, two of the party's most moderate members, have signaled they do not support increasing the pay floor as part of a broader COVID-19 relief effort.
The federal minimum wage has not increased in more than a decade, although a growing number of states have voted to adopt their own wage increases. There are 29 states with wages above the federal minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At $14 an hour, California currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation.
Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost the economy about 1.4 million jobs and would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The House passed its version of Biden's relief measure over the weekend that included the $15 wage hike. The Senate could move as soon as this week to pass its own version of the bill, which will exclude the $15 minimum wage increase.
Democrats also dropped an alternative method to increase the pay floor by imposing a penalty on corporations that pay low wages amid concerns that its inclusion could delay the bill's passage past March 14, when millions of Americans will lose their unemployment aid.