House Democrats passed their version of a coronavirus relief package that includes a $15 minimum wage, but Senate Democrats won't be able to include it in their version while using reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster.
The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that a minimum wage hike does not fit within the confines of the reconciliation process, but an alterative proposal that would use the tax code to incentive businesses to increase their wages also does not have enough support to pass.
The Senate’s rules expert said the wage hike could not be included as long as Democrats are using a maneuver that allows the coronavirus bill to pass with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber.
Democrats dropped the plan to get around this setback by using the tax code to push for a higher wage after running into a number of political and practical hurdles.
That decision resolved a potential sticking point for the legislation. While progressives want the wage increase kept in the COVID-19 bill, some moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin favor a smaller increase in the minimum wage, to about $11 an hour.
Now, some people have said that Senate Democrats should vote to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian and I don't necessarily disagree with that, but they don't have the votes to do that. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) may not support a $15 minimum wage in any case and they certainly aren't going to vote to change the rules.
The bottom line is they just don't have the votes with a bare minimum majority that depends on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tiebreaker.
This does not mean congressional Democrats should give up on raising the federal minimum wage, but if dropping the proposal means they can pass the $1.9 trillion relief package in the next two weeks I believe that's the right call.
The relief package includes far more than stimulus checks. It includes a huge amount of money for families with children, a significant amount of money for infrastructure projects, and money for local governments that cut a million jobs over the least year. It's good policy even without the minimum wage hike.
Democrats have to win more elections to pass all of the policies we want to see and temper tantrums don't win elections.