Sanders' attempt to add $15 minimum wage to COVID relief bill fails

Posted 40 days ago


Sen. Bernie Sanders' attempt to add a $15 per hour minimum wage to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill failed as eight Democrats voted against his effort.

It was a long shot bid by Sanders to get the wage hike into the legislation after the Senate parliamentarian ruled it could not be included.

'This legislation is the most consequential and significant legislation for working families that Congress has debated for many, many decades,' Sanders said on the Senate floor Friday.

In pushing the amendment, Sanders forced his fellow Democrats to take a stand on the issue, which has divided the moderate and progressive wings of the party.

The Democrats going against Sanders were moderates, many from swing states: Jon Tester, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Angus King, Kyrsten Sinema, Tom Carper, Chris Coons, and Maggie Hassan.

The White House made clear Friday it that President Joe Biden supports Sanders' drive to raise the wage.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said to be clear the administration is 'not engaged in conversations or negotiations about lowering the threshold for the minimum wage, just to be crystal clear on that.'

Some Republican senators are pushing a bill to have an $11 per hour minimum wage.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough dealt the death blow to the wage hike when she ruled last week that the provision was not compliant with the rules governing the budget process that Congress is using to pass the bill with simple majorities.

Her ruling outraged liberals, who called for Democratic leadership to overrule it. Sanders roasted MacDonough in a speech on the Senate floor Friday morning.

'It is an absurd process that we allow an unelected staffer, somebody who works for the Senate not elected by anybody. to make a decision as to whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not,' the Vermont senator said.

'If people here want to vote against raising the minimum wage, you have that right. If you want to vote for it, and I hope you do, you have that right. But we should not shovel off that responsibility to an unelected staffer. That's wrong,' he added.

Given the parliamentarian's ruling that the wage hike could not be included, it would take a super majority of 60 senators to overrule that finding so Sanders' amendment could be added to the COVID relief package.

Even if all Democrats supported Sanders, his move to include it would have failed given the Republican opposition to it.

Democrats pushed to have the COVID relief bill passed through a process called reconciliation, which would keep the GOP from filibustering it and allow it to pass with a simple majority.

But, by invoking reconciliation, they also invoked what is called the 'Byrd rule' -  which limits acceptable provisions in the reconciliation process to taxing and spending.

MacDonough, the Senate's nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, ruled last week the wage hike does not meet those standards.

Her ruling was not a surprise. Even President Joe Biden predicted the wage hike was likely not to meet the reconciliation requirements for inclusion.

The existing federal minimum wage, at $7.25 an hour, has not been changed since 2009.

The House version of the COVID relief bill contained the wage hike.

But the House, which passed its version last week, will have to vote on the Senate version once it passes the upper chamber. Once both chambers of Congress approve the same bill, Biden can sign it into law.

After the vote on Sanders' proposal, the Senate will begin a massive vote-a-rama on amendments to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan as Republicans look to delay a final vote on the legislation.

'There'll be a lengthy amendment process, as the rules of the Senate require. The Senate is going to take a lot of votes. But we are going to power through and finish this bill, however long it takes,' Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Friday morning.

Republican senators are expected to offer multiple amendments to the bill, which Democrats claim is necessary to help the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The GOP protests the bill's cost and claim it's filled with progressive priorities.

'Votearama is upon us,' said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. 'Stay hydrated. Try to keep good cheer. We're going to have lots of amendments today and kind of talk about where we differ on certain things, which will be good for the country.'

'It's going to be a long day,' he added.

As part of their objections they are using the legislative process to delay a final vote as long as po... (Read more)