Senator Dick Durbin Confirms Discussions Underway to Pass $15 Minimum Wage Without GOP Votes

Senator Dick Durbin confirmed Tuesday that discussions are currently underway to pass a $15 minimum wage bill without any Republican votes.

While speaking with The Hill, Durbin said that Democrats can use the budget reconciliation process, allowing Democrats to pass it with a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes typically required to pass legislation.

"It's being discussed. I don't know that a final decision has been reached," Durbin told The Hill in regard to increasing the minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process.

Durbin's office confirmed his comments with Newsweek.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the budget reconciliation process was created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and "allows for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation."

One of the advantages of using the budget reconciliation process is that reconciliation legislation is not subject to to filibuster, allowing for it to pass with a simple majority vote.

"Under general Senate rules, legislation can be stalled by virtually unlimited debate and the offering of numerous amendments," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a report. To end debate and cease with adding amendments unrelated to the bill, a two-fifths majority vote is needed. "For a reconciliation bill, however, the Congressional Budget Act limits Senate debate on the bill to 20 hours and limits debate on subsequent compromise between the two houses to ten hours," the report said.

Senator Dick Durbin
US Senator Dick Durbin questions Antony J. Blinken during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 19, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Getty

With an evenly divided Senate, Democrats could increase the minimum wage with a simple majority vote, given that they all vote in favor, without need for Republican votes. But before that can happen, Democrats in both chambers will have to pass a coinciding budget resolution with a reconciliation instruction that covers minimum wage.

This additional resolution will also need approval from Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.

Additionally, the budget reconciliation process also must abide by the Byrd Rule, which requires any policies in a budget reconciliation bill can't be "merely incidental" to the budgetary changes.

While speaking to The Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders, who will soon become the Senate Budget Committee Chairman noted that Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass former President Donald Trump's 2017 tax reform initiative.

"If the Republicans could use reconciliation to pass trillions of dollars for tax breaks," Sanders told The Hill. "We must use reconciliation to protect the needs of working families."

Sanders also told The Hill that Democrats are preparing to tell MacDonough that raising the minimum wage will help millions of Americans stop relying on the government for aid instead of restructuring the minimum wage bill to follow the the budget reconciliation process.

"I think we can absolutely make the case to the parliamentarian that it can pass the Byrd Rule," Sanders told The Hill.

Despite the comments made by Sanders and Durbin, during a recent interview with CNN, Budget Committee chairman Rep. John Yarmuth said that he didn't expect the minimum wage bill to be compliant with the Byrd Rule, adding that he thinks "that is a stretch."