Senate parliamentarian rules against $15 minimum wage in COVID-19 relief bill

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Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the Senate cannot include a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 in its COVID-19 relief package.

The ruling stated that the provision was not compliant with the Byrd rule, which limits what provisions on taxing and spending can be included in the process of reconciliation that would allow Democrats to enact President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan without Republican support.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Biden was "disappointed in this outcome" but would respect 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," she said. "He urges Congress to move quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes $1,400 rescue checks for most Americans, funding to get this virus under control, aid to get our schools reopened and desperately needed help for the people who have been hardest hit by the crisis."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the $15 minimum wage provision would remain in the House version of the bill, which is set to go to a vote Friday.

If the measure passes the House with the provision included, however, the Senate would be forced to strip the provision and return the bill to the House.

"We are deeply disappointed in this decision," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. "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. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the contrary, wrote on Twitter that he was "very pleased" with the parliamentarian's decision.

"The decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change -- by either party -- on a simple majority vote," he said. "This decision will, over time, reinforce the traditions of the Senate."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issued a statement saying he strongly disagrees with the parliamentarian's decision citing support amongst Americans for a $15 minimum wage and comments from the Congressional Budget Office signifying it should be allowed under reconciliation.

"In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large profitable corporations that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages. That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill," he said.

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