House to vote on virus bill; arbiter says wage hike a no-go

by Jeremy

WASHINGTON — Democrats are ready to shove a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package through the House on Friday, despite a setback that means a minimum wage boost is unlikely to be in the final version that reaches President Joe Biden.

The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries, and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children.

Republicans oppose the sweeping measure, saying it’s too expensive, not targeted enough at the people and businesses that most need it, and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. Not one has publicly said they will support the legislation, an ominous sign that the partisan gulf that has enveloped Washington for decades shows no sign of closing.

The House bill would also hoist the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2025, more than doubling the current $7.25 floor that’s been in effect since 2019.

But that proposal seemed highly likely to die in the Senate after that chamber’s parliamentarian said Thursday that the cherished progressive goal must be dropped from the relief legislation, Senate Democratic aides said.

The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, means Democrats face an overwhelmingly uphill battle to boost the minimum wage this year in the face of solid Republican opposition.

Biden, a supporter of the $15 increase, was “disappointed” in the outcome but respected the parliamentarian’s ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The Senate has a long tradition of heeding the parliamentarian’s decisions with few exceptions, a history revered by traditionalists like Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran.

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