Progressives Defiant As $15 Minimum Wage Push Faces Procedural Hurdle

Progressive lawmakers pushing for a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour have pushed against the prospect of a blockade to this measure being passed through reconciliation.

The U.S. Senate is still awaiting the view of the Senate parliamentarian as to whether they think the wage boost can be included in a reconciliation bill.

There has been the suggestion the measure could be deemed to fall foul of the "Byrd Rule," which stops measures determined to be out of the scope of the federal budget being passed through budget reconciliation—a measure Democrats are using to push on with COVID-19 relief that could bypass the need for Republican support.

Progressive lawmakers from the House of Representatives have said that the Senate parliamentarian's ruling will be an "advisory opinion," and should perhaps be pushed against if they indicate the minimum wage provision should not be included.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: "The parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion. Once the parliamentarian issues that advisory opinion, it is up to the chair of the Senate to decide whether or not to incorporate that opinion.

"It's a small technicality, but I do think we've got to use every tool in our toolbox here. Whether it is reconciliation, whether it is, you know, ultimately reforming the filibuster. We're going to need to deliver on our promise to raise the wage for 27 million Americans."

Asked whether Democrats should move to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if they advise the measure should not be in reconciliation, Jayapal said: "I personally do.

"Democrats made a promise to people across this country that we were going to raise the minimum wage. That we were going to put money in people's pockets. It's been 12 years since we raised the minimum age. And if we're going to make those promises, we have to be able to deliver on them."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has said he also thinks the parliamentarian's ruling could be disregarded.

"The Constitution gives the Vice President the power to decide whether the $15 minimum wage can pass through reconciliation," he tweeted.

"The parliamentarian's opinion is advisory, which VPs have disregarded before.

"Do not let anyone tell you that we do not have the power to pass $15 wage."

Khanna, speaking on MSNBC, said: "If there are political reasons that the White House doesn't want to disregard the parliamentarian, for whatever reason, then just come out and say that. But know that this is a decision that the White House has. The vice president has every power to disregard that decision."

While Khanna suggested the White House could push against a ruling, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on Wednesday there would not be an attempt to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she rules the wage boost should be pulled.

"We're all waiting on bated breath for a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian," he said, speaking on MSNBC.

"The president believes we should have a $15 minimum wage. If it is ruled in order, then obviously that would allow it to move in this package. If it's ruled out of order, we're going to have to find other ways to get it done."

On the prospect of the vice president overruling the parliamentarian, Klain said: "Certainly that's not something we would do.

"We're going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed."

President Joe Biden previously said he does not think the minimum wage increase will remain in the stimulus bill due to Senate rules, and suggested a standalone bill for it.

Newsweek has contacted the lawmakers mentioned and the White House for comment.

pramila jayapal at subcommittee hearing
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) looks on during an Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C. July 29, 2020. She has continued her push for a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour. Graeme Jennings/Pool/AFP via Getty Images