AOC Says Only 'Two Options' to Pass $15 Minimum Wage: Override Parliamentarian or End Filibuster

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York, argued that Democrats now have "two options" if they want to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour—either disregard the Senate parliamentarian's ruling or end the legislative filibuster.

The Senate's parliamentarian ruled last week that the minimum wage hike would not be eligible to pass through the complicated budget reconciliation process. Democrats have turned to that process to push through President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Legislation passed through budget reconciliation requires only a simple majority to pass in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes generally required because of the legislative filibuster rule, and would not necessarily require any Republican support, given the upper chamber's current makeup.

Progressive Democrats have strongly criticized the parliamentarian's decision, with some calling for the decision to be overridden or for the parliamentarian to be fired. Ocasio-Cortez said during a Sunday evening interview with MSNBC that voters are counting on Democrats to pass the wage increase, arguing that bold action is necessary to push it through.

"I do believe we should override the parliamentarian. I think that this is a matter of course and that constituents and people across this country put Democrats in power to, among many other things, establish a $15 minimum wage. We have a responsibility to do that," she said.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walks to the House floor on February 4. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

Ocasio-Cortez said that Democrats should not view the parliamentarian's decision as an obstacle. "Our two options are realistically this: override the parliamentarian or eliminate the filibuster. Those are the only two paths that we have in order to create substantive change in the United States, and that is what people across the country want," the congresswoman said.

The White House has already signaled that it does not want to disregard the parliamentarian's decision.

"President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last Thursday. "He respects the parliamentarian's decision and the Senate's process. He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward, because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty."

Biden has previously expressed opposition to ending the filibuster, as have some moderate Democrats. Newsweek reached out to the White House for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.

A group progressive Democrats—led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip Ro Khanna—issued a statement on Monday morning urging the Biden administration to override the parliamentarian's decision. Ocasio-Cortez signed on to the effort, which was backed by 23 members of the Progressive Caucus.

"This ruling is a bridge too far," Khanna said in a statement. "[Progressives have] been asked, politely but firmly, to compromise on nearly all of our principles and goals. Not this time. If we don't overrule the Senate parliamentarian, we are condoning poverty wages for millions of Americans. That's why I'm leading my colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to lean on the clear precedent and overrule this misguided decision. Give America a raise."

In a Sunday tweet, Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, vowed that "the fight for a $15 minimum wage isn't over."

The congresswoman wrote: "People can't live on $7.25/hour—and we can't leave them hanging. I won't stop fighting to give 27 million workers a raise and finally lift people out of poverty."