Two dozen House Democrats have sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to overrule Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough and keep a $15 minimum wage in Biden’s American Rescue Plan. House Democrats passed their version of the American Rescue Plan on Friday with the wage hike intact. There are a number of compelling reasons why Vice President Kamala Harris should use her constitutional authority to overrule McDonough.
First off, while McDonough’s rationale is not known publicly, what we do know is that Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), asked the Congressional Budget Office to compare the budgetary impacts of the wage raise against two provisions the GOP passed through reconciliation in 2017, opening up oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and dropping the mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The CBO determined that a $15 wage hike had a greater budget impact than either of these two provisions, which McDonough ruled were permissible under the lens of the so-called Byrd Rule. On the face of it this calls into question McDonough’s decision and gives democrats a foundation for overruling her.
Secondly, there is historical precedent for Vice Presidents overruling the parliamentarian, both democrat and republican. Hubert Humphrey did it twice in 1967 and 1969, Nelson Rockefeller in 1975, and in 2001 Senate Majority leader Trent Lott fired Senate parliamentarian Robert Dove, apparently for procedurally hampering advancement of the Bush Administrations tax cuts. If the GOP can fire a parliamentarian for standing in the way of tax cuts for the rich I should think the democrats can overrule a parliamentarian to give 32 million Americans a much needed and much deserved raise.
Third, there’s nothing ” controversial” about a $15 minimum wage. Connecticut, Illinois, California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York have all passed bills raising their minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Voters in Florida, which Trump won in 2020, approved a $15 minimum wage referendum last November. Two thirds of the American people support a $15 minimum wage. Even Bloomberg chimes in with the headline “ A $15 Minimum Wage Is Popular Everywhere But the Senate. But you’re going to let the opinion of a single, un-elected Senate functionary stand in your way? Really?
Lastly, it’s not an overstatement to suggest that the fate of the 2022 mid-terms is at stake. This issue has risen to the top of the national political debate over the last couple of weeks. Every major media outlet in the country is reporting on it. A lot of people are watching and they understand that this is something the Biden administration can do, if they want to. Biden campaigned on it. It’s time, quite literally, for democrats to put their money where their mouth is. Overrule the parliamentarian, take the American Rescue Plan bill the House passed, whip the living BeJesus out of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and fight like hell to pass it through the Senate with 51 votes. Just do it.