Progressive lawmakers are pushing the White House to override a decision last week by the Senate parliamentarian and include a federal minimum wage increase in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
In a letter addressed to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, 23 members of Congress urged the administration to set aside the decision by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate's non-partisan referee, that raising the pay floor from $7.25 an hour is not compliant with budget reconciliation rules, the tactic that Democrats are using to pass the stimulus bill with a simple majority.
“Eighty-one million people cast their ballots to elect you on a platform that called for a $15 minimum wage,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We urge you to keep that promise and call on the presiding officer of the Senate to refute the Senate parliamentarian’s advice.”
Signatories include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, as well as Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal. The effort was spearheaded by Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip Ro Khanna.
Although Harris has the power to overturn the parliamentarian as president of the Senate, the White House has ruled out that option.
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.