Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough on Thursday effectively killed a Democratic push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, ruling that the measure doesn't pass muster under the budget reconciliation rules Democrats are using to pass the package with a simple majority in the Senate.
Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), have already said they would vote against including the $15 minimum wage provision in the relief package, dealing it a near-fatal blow in the 50-50 Senate. But many supporters of the wage hike were nonetheless irritated that an obscure, unelected Senate official was the one to ax the broadly popular measure. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among them, but he also had a Plan B.
"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 the reconciliation bill." Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) echoed Sanders, saying he's "looking at a tax penalty for mega-corporations that refuse to pay a living wage."
The House is scheduled to vote on the $1.9 trillion package, including the $15 minimum wage, on Friday, but the measure can be amended when it arrives in the Senate. If they reconfigure the minimum wage increase as a tax penalty, which is "likely to qualify under the reconciliation rules," Bloomberg News reports, "Democrats have less than three weeks to draft the changes, convince all 50 senators who caucus with the party to support the tax increases — and the specifics of the minimum-wage hike. ... Targeting only large, profitable companies could help assuage concerns from some moderate Democrats who are hesitant to support large-scale tax increases."