UNDETERRED – Fight Continues

House Democrats passed President’s Biden’s American Rescue Act. ARA which, among other funding measures, called for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

They passed the bill after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough issued an advisory. She said that the $15 minimum wage increase shouldn’t be included in the American Rescue Act. MacDonough said it didn’t meet budget reconciliation rules.

Even before MacDonough’s ruling, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the leading advocate for the raising the minimum wage to $15, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the $7.25 federal minimum wage was “a starvation wage.”

Senate Rules Against the Current Proposal

MacDonough’s decision ended Senate Democrats’ chance to bypass the 60-vote supermajority and Senate Republicans’ opposition, and pass the ARA, inclusive of  the wage increase, with a simple majority.

Sanders disagreed with MacDonough’s decision in an official statement. “The CBO made it absolutely clear that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour had a substantial budgetary impact and should be allowed under reconciliation. It is hard for me to understand how drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was considered to be consistent with the Byrd Rule, while increasing the minimum wage is not.”

The parliamentarian’s advice was not unexpected. President Biden had earlier predicted the wage increase wouldn’t survive when his stimulus package  reached the Senate.

As the presiding officer of the Senate, Vice-President Kamala Harris  could overrule MacDonough. But Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, said the White House will respect the parliamentarian’s ruling. WH Press Secretary Jen said Biden was “disappointed” but, “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,” Psaki told reporters.

Fight for $15 Continues

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ( D-N.Y.) said, “We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wants to fire MacDonough. “The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion,” congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said in a tweet. “The VP can overrule them. We should do EVERYTHING we can to keep our promise, deliver a $15 minimum wage, and give 27 million workers a raise.”

Increasing the minimum wage would give 32 million Americans a raise and lift one million out of poverty, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report. The CBO also predicts initial job losses of 1.4 million, initially, but supporters say investing in a green economy, technology, and infrastructure will add more jobs.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member on the Senate Committee on the Budget said he was  : “Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation. This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change – by either party – on a simple majority vote.”

Yet, that’s how Republican passed Trump’s permanent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Without Democratic votes. And they ran up a  $2 Trillion deficit that  benefits the wealthiest Americans.  

Bernie Sanders Amendment

Sanders will  propose an amendment. He will take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. He will provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages. “That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill,” said Sanders. 

Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged some Senate Democrats opposed to the $15 minimum. Senator Joe Manchin i(D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), opposed the minimum wage proposal, but for different reasons. Manchin proposed  $11 per hour and Sinema opposed the measure for procedural reasons. She said the increase shouldn’t be a part of the budget reconciliation process because “it’s not a budget item.”

Before the parliamentarian ruled, Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) sponsored a bill, The Higher Wages for Americans Act,  to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2025. The plan also mandates that employees use an E-Verify system to ensure that they are not hiring illegal immigrants.

Interestingly, both legislators’ personal net worth stands in sharp contrast to their proposal for working Americans.

“Mitt Romney’s net worth makes him one of the richest politicians in the United States. During his 2012 Presidential campaign, Romney’s financial disclosure forms estimated his total net worth to be $80 – $255 million; at that time, the value of his IRA account alone was $102 million. His 2018 Senate campaign financial disclosure pegged his fortune at $190 – $250 million,” CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates.

“According to his most recently-released financial disclosure, Cotton estimated his net worth at $500,000. In the years when he has given estimates, his net worth has fluctuated from $250,000 to $500,000,” the report continued.  The Celebrity Net Worth reports are based on public records and personal financial disclosure forms.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted about the proposal. “When members of Congress fight to set the minimum wage below a living wage, they are playing a role in creating and preserving poverty in the United States. The $15/hr. proposal with multi-year phase in is already a deep compromise. $10 an hour is legislated poverty.”

Other Democrats criticized the Republicans’ plan for being lower than the $11 minimum wage in Cotton’s home state.  

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that  the Democratic plan would give a raise to 32.2 million workers. The Republican proposal would provide a wage hike to just 4.9 million workers. An employee who worked 40 hours a week would earn about  $20,800 under the Romney-Cotton plan. The same employee earns about $31,200 under the Democratic plan. Currently, a worker paid the federal minimum would earn just $15,080 under the same circumstances.

“It is unconscionable that we should pay the lowest-wage workers today less than what they earned five decades ago, while the economy’s productivity has more than doubled over the last 50 years,” the economic experts said.

““No one who works fulltime in America should live in poverty. The #FightFor15 is a fight for women, for working families, and for a growing economy that benefits everyone. That’s *our* fight!  Probably 70% of women of color earn the minimum wage,” Pelosi said in a video posted to her twitter account.

Costco’s CEO Craig Jelinek responded to the concerns of opponents of raising the minimum wage. They say that the increase would lead to small business closures.

“I can tell you in my past experience that wages usually don’t put people out of business. How you run your business will put you out of business.” Jelinek recently announced a $16 per hour increase for Costco employees.

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