Sanders 'Confident' $15 Minimum Wage Will Pass Senate Without Republican Support

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TOPLINE 

Chair of the Senate Budget Committee Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday he's confident Democrats can pass a proposed minimum wage increase as part of the next stimulus bill without Republican support, despite uncertainty over the rules governing the limitations of budget reconciliation, a procedure Democrats are using to bypass Republican support for the next relief package.

KEY FACTS

Following discussions with the Senate parliamentarian, which studies and interprets the chamber's rules, Sanders told CNN Saturday that the minimum wage increase has a "much greater impact" on the federal budget than two provisions previously passed by Republicans under reconciliation.

Sanders said that precedent makes him "confident" the parliamentarian will decide the proposal satisfies the Byrd Rule, which dictates that any provision passed under reconciliation must be related in some way to the federal budget. 

Earlier this month, Sanders pointed to a study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office  that concluded a $15 minimum wage would increase the deficit by less than $1 million over 10 years, and other studies indicating it could actually reduce the deficit, therefore showing it would have a “direct and substantial impact on the federal budget.”

Sanders says the parliamentarian will decide next week whether the plan can move forward in the stimulus plan; the House is slated to vote on the package by Friday.

Dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, the proposed plan would immediately increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, from $7.25 currently, with gradual annual increases until the hourly rate hits $15 in 2025.

KEY BACKGROUND

The evenly split Senate means all 50 Democrats will need to be on board in order for the relief bill to pass with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden's lofty $1.9 trillion proposal will likely need to be trimmed to satisfy the party's most conservative lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

CHIEF CRITIC

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process," Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said earlier this month, fueling doubts that a stimulus bill can pass with the proposed minimum wage increase. "It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday he expects President Joe Biden will sign another round of relief before March 14, when enhanced federal unemployment benefits granted under the last relief bill in December are set to expire.

TANGENT

Sanders is slated to meet with the CEOs of Walmart and McDonald's on Thursday in a hearing entitled, “Why Should Taxpayers Subsidize Poverty Wages at Large Profitable Corporations?” A discussion on minimum wage is expected to be part of the agenda. 

TOPLINE 

The House Education and Labor Committee voted early Wednesday to advance a portion of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act that includes a $15 per hour national minimum wage, but the massive wage hike is far from guaranteed. 

Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald's corporate headquarters on January 15, ... [+] 

KEY FACTS

The provision is a major priority for Biden and progressives and would gradually increase the national minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour over the course of five years. 

In a new analysis released this week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the plan would lift 900,000 workers out of poverty but cost 1.4 million jobs and add $54 billion to the cumulative federal budget deficit. 

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Republicans on the committee objected to the measure because of those losses in employment and rising deficit costs.

Democrats are using a special process called budget reconciliation that will allow them to pass Biden’s stimulus plan with a simple majority (and over Republican objections), but that plan comes with a major restriction: every provision must be related in some way to the federal budget. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), head of the Senate Budget Committee, has argued that the CBO’s analysis shows that wage hike would impact the budget and is therefore eligible under the reconciliation process, but no final determination has been made. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that Democrats are consulting with the Senate parliamentarian to determine whether the wage hike could be included in the final legislation.

BIG NUMBER

27 million. That’s how many workers would be impacted by the wage hike, according to the committee. 

CHIEF CRITIC

“Why in the world would we vote to reduce employment when so many people are struggling in the pandemic and desperate to get back to work?,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said, according to Bloomberg.

TANGENT

Because of their razor thin majority in the Senate (50 Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote), Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote on the sweeping $1.9 trillion plan. That means the final legislation will also have to be acceptable to more conservative members of the caucus like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has been a vocal opponent of a $15 minimum wage. 

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