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Economy-Minimum Wage- Congress-Employment

February 22, 2021



TRUENEWSBLOG- House Democrats are slated to vote late this week on Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER is promising the Senate will clear it by the looming March 14 unemployment benefits deadline. But there’s one big kink: the minimum wage debate.

Our sources say the Senate parliamentarian will rule as soon as Tuesday on whether a nationwide boost to $15 an hour is allowed under reconciliation. Depending on how that goes, you can expect one of the following scenarios to play out:

1) If the parliamentarian rules the hike is allowed, the likelihood it will be included skyrockets. But that does not mean it will survive, since Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) and Manchin have vocally opposed adding the minimum wage increase to pandemic relief. It’s possible a ruling by the parliamentarian that it’s kosher would change their minds. 

But if not, Democratic leaders would have to decide whether to dare them to back down by putting the bill, minimum wage and all, on the floor for a vote. Or, we could see a compromise. Roll Call’s Paul Krawzak scooped last week that Democratic leaders are talking about sweetening the pot for moderates by adding a small-business tax break to offset any added burden on mom-and-pop shops dealing with the wage increases. 

We’ve also heard chatter about a smaller minimum wage hike to, say, $11 or $12. Notably, Sen. TOM COTTON (R-Ark.) and Romney last week announced they’ll be introducing their own minimum wage hike, making it politically difficult for any Senate Democrats to oppose a smaller increase. Manchin has also said he backs an $11 minimum wage.

2) If the parliamentarian says the provision breaks Senate rules, you’d think that would be the end of it. But we could see a situation in which liberal lawmakers rebel and try to push Senate leadership to overrule the parliamentarian. 

This is where things could get messy: Do House progressives use their leverage to force Speaker NANCY PELOSI to keep the minimum wage hike in the bill even if it won’t clear the Senate? Does Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), the Budget Committee chair, also demand it?  Senior Democratic aides are skeptical that progressives would risk tanking stimulus checks, child tax credits and money for state and local governments over the minimum wage.

One last possibility if the minimum wage is struck is to hold a separate vote on it to appease progressives. It wouldn’t pass the Senate, but Democrats could at least say they tried. 

Meanwhile, top Republicans, who have had trouble organizing against the Covid bill, are seizing on CBO’s analysis of the minimum wage proposal to make their case against the overall package. During the markup of the bill later today, Rep. JASON SMITH (R-Mo.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, will say the following, according to prepared remarks obtained by Playbook:

“[T]his policy would destroy millions of jobs — at least 1.4 million according to the Congressional Budget Office — and disproportionately harm low-wage workers, disabled workers, and less educated workers. … [I]t will raise consumer prices — hurting millions of working-class Americans and those living on fixed incomes, especially the 31 million seniors who get half or more of their income from Social Security.”

On that case we ought to lower minimum wage instead of increasing it, any questions.

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