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Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Plan Can’t Include $15 Minimum Wage, Says Senate Parliamentarian

February 25, 2021

The Democrat-endorsed COVID-19 relief bill cannot include a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour if the bill were passed through the reconciliation process, the parliamentarian for the U.S. Senate announced on Thursday.

According to The New York Times, Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, informed key senators on Thursday that the minimum wage hike cannot stay in the COVID-19 relief bill because it would only have an “incidental” affect on the budget. Under the reconciliation process, the Senate can pass a bill with a filibuster-proof simple majority, but any amendment must be germane, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The White House has been pushing for a $15 minimum wage, although President Joe Biden has reportedly expressed skepticism that it could survive reconciliation, telling a group of Democratic mayors and governors last week that “it just doesn’t look like we can do it,” according to Politico.

Biden’s proposal, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, is scheduled to receive a House vote on Friday, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has already said the proposal will contain the $15 minimum wage hike, according to The Washington Post. Should the legislation pass the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would then be forced to decide whether to rewrite the language of the minimum wage hike, in an attempt to make it comply with the Senate rules, or just scrap the hike completely.

A small group of Republican senators have introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour over several years, a proposal that would also mandate E-Verify participation by employers across the United States. The proposal, spearheaded by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) would increase the minimum wage for small businesses at a slower rate than businesses with more than 20 employees, and would also index future minimum wage increases to inflation every two years.

“It’s been more than a decade since the federal minimum wage has been increased, leaving millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” said Romney in a statement. “Our proposal would raise wages for nearly 3.5 million workers without costing jobs. Additionally, requiring employers to use E-Verify would ensure that businesses only hire legal workers—eliminating a key driver of illegal immigration.”

According to a proposal summary by Romney’s office, the E-Verify component would “preserve American jobs for legal workers and remove incentives for increased illegal immigration.” Three other Republican senators — Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH) — were on-board with the Romney-Cotton bill when it was introduced on Thursday.

“This approach will give both businesses and people the certainty they need and deserve. It also ensures that younger employees seeking their first job are not priced out of the workforce. Unlike the Democrats’ proposal, this bill would protect tipped workers by ensuring they are still able to work in a capacity that ensures they have larger take home pay,” said Portman. “This legislation also ensures use of E-Verify. I’ve taken a lead on advocating for a workable E-Verify because of its proven effectiveness of deterring unlawful immigration and helping employers ensure they are hiring Americans. Hiring Americans for jobs available across the country will be crucial as we our economy continues to reopen and businesses get back on their feet.”

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