Sanders proposes way to address minimum wage in COVID-19 bill after Senate rules hike to $15 out of order

Senator says tax penalty for not raising minimum wage 'must be included in this reconciliation bill'

Democrats are looking for ways to include a $15 minimum wage hike in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package after the Senate Parliamentarian said it does not fit the rules to be passed via the budget reconciliation process on Thursday night.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement that he planned to look into an amendment that would take tax deductions away from big businesses that don’t pay workers at least $15 per hour.

“In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages,”’ Sanders said in a statement. “That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill.”

Reconciliation allows a bill to be passed with a simple majority instead of 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, which is not allowed under the rules.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who has floated a $23 minimum wage, called on Vice President Kamala Harris to “disregard and rule a $15 minimum wage in order.”

Typically, budget reconciliation measures must affect spending or revenue, like tax measures. Sanders' maneuver seems designed to get a minimum wage provision into the bill by adding a tax element.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement on Thursday saying that the minimum wage measure would remain in the bill on the House floor Friday because Democrats believe the increase is “necessary.”


Earlier in the day, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters that critics were “lucky that progressives aren’t asking for $24 right now, or $25 right now.” She also suggested she would be more willing to accept a bill without the minimum wage hike if it was ruled “out of bounds” by the parliamentarian and not stripped from the legislation prematurely by members of the party.

She also alluded to divisions within the Democratic Party between the more conservative and progressive sects, saying “conservative Democrats have a little sway over that slim margin in the Senate.”

“There will continue to be, I think, a push, pull over the next two years, but we can't just roll over and allow, you know, a tiny group, maybe two members of the Senate on the Democratic side, two conservative senators, to drop all democratic policy including Biden's policy,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.


Biden has repeatedly said that no American worker should work 40 hours per week and still live below the poverty line while advocating for raising the minimum pay rate to at least $15 per hour.

The White House on Thursday put out a statement that Biden respects the Senate's process and he intends to work with Congress to identify the best avenue to advance the legislation.