WASHINGTON: A key U.S. Senate official ruled Thursday that President Joe Biden’s minimum wage of $ 15 per hour cannot be included in the massive COVID relief bill as written, jeopardizing Democrats’ efforts to achieve a progressive priority.
Senator Elizabeth McDonough told lawmakers that minimum wage language does not qualify to be in the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus package if Democrats seek to pass it through an anti-disruption bill.
The process, known as reconciliation, allows lawmakers to pass a budget bill with only 51 votes in the 100-member assembly, instead of the 60 votes normally required for major legislation.
Republicans in the largely evenly divided Senate are opposed to the relief package, which means that Democrats will need to delay raising the nationwide minimum wage to $ 15 an hour from $ 7.25 if they want any chance of passing on the COVID-19 aid.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We are very disappointed with this decision.”
“We will not give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families.”
The strike comes one day before the House of Representatives vote on the plan, which aims to provide relief to millions of troubled American families, as well as businesses and communities affected by the epidemic.
The ruling only affects the Senate. But since any bill must pass both houses before the president signs it, the parliamentarian’s decision effectively removes the pay increase from the package.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter that the resolution “promotes reconciliation and cannot be used as a means to pass a major legislative change – by either side – by a simple majority.”
“This decision, over time, will strengthen the traditions of the Senate.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Social Democrat and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a statement criticizing the decision.
He noted that most Americans support raising the minimum wage, “but because of the old and undemocratic rules of the Senate, we are unable to move forward to end famine wages and increase the income of the 32 million struggling Americans. This battle continues.”