Bloodbath? The Looming Democratic Civil War on the Minimum Wage

|
|
Posted: Feb 18, 2021 6:00 AM
Bloodbath? The Looming Democratic Civil War on the Minimum Wage

Source: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

It's either going to be civil war or not much of a fight at all. It all depends on how much Chuck Schumer wants to avoid a primary challenge from the progressive Left. The fight to increase the minimum wage is front-and-center now that the second Trump impeachment trial is over. Democrats plan to use reconciliation to pass a massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which might include a minimum wage hike. Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote. Well, so far, they’ve lost two, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ). At this point, it’s dead in the water. Will this measure get 60 votes going through the regular legislative process? Maybe. Senate Republicans have offered a bill of their own that increases the minimum wage to $15, but it’s only for American citizens. It contains measures to ensure businesses don’t hire illegal aliens, so that’s not going anywhere. I do think there might be enough votes to increase the minimum wage, but the politicking will begin here, and once again there will be theatrics. 

Progressives supposedly want the phased-in approach, which was widely mocked when first proposed, but hey—I guess it’s better than nothing. There’s also another issue of the Senate parliamentarian refusing to sign off on the minimum wage increase for reconciliation as it’s wholly unrelated to matters of the budget, though the Senate can ignore the ruling. Sinema and Manchin just became the center of the universe, and open warfare among Democrats over the minimum wage could erupt (via WSJ):

Democrats are bracing for an internal battle over raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as they grappled with the political and procedural constraints on reaching a long-held goal of the party’s progressive wing.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan proposes to do by 2025, faces opposition from some Democratic lawmakers and parliamentary hurdles. Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote in the 50-50 Senate on the relief package, which also calls for sending many Americans a $1,400 direct check, bolstering federal unemployment aid, and offering funds for vaccine distribution and testing.

[…]

Using reconciliation comes with limitations, though, as Senate rules prevent Congress from using it to approve measures that aren’t directly related to the budget. The nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian hears arguments and rules on whether policy provisions are eligible to be passed under reconciliation. Some Democrats expect that the minimum-wage increase will not be eligible, while others push for its inclusion. Mr. Biden said earlier this month he expected the parliamentarian would rule the minimum-wage increase out of bounds.

[…]

A ruling by the parliamentarian either way will create a quandary for Democrats. If the parliamentarian says Democrats can raise the minimum wage through reconciliation, the party will have to forge a compromise between the lawmakers who favor the current $15 minimum wage proposal and those who oppose it.

If the parliamentarian rules against raising the minimum wage through reconciliation, Democrats will face calls from progressive lawmakers and activists to ignore the ruling. Under the chamber’s rules, the presiding officer of the Senate can disregard the parliamentarian’s advice—a step that would allow Democrats to dispense with the historical rules of the reconciliation process. When the vice president is breaking ties in the Senate, she presides over the chamber, though other lawmakers can also preside.

This seems like a very complicated process—and it is! Hence, why did we screw around and waste time on an impeachment effort that everyone saw as going nowhere? It never had the votes, and the charges were grade-A political overreach. Meanwhile, millions of working families are struggling and suffering in an economic purgatory over the Democrats’ COVID lockdown regime—and Congress decided to waste more time. Oh, and after impeachment was over—these guys decided to skip town. This is bound to be a mess, with lots of yelling. Democrats cannot govern. It’s like an episode of Hoarders. Democrats don’t know how to prioritize, get rid of the clutter, or understand how they got here. If I’m forced to make a prediction, I’d say that this minimum wage hike is dead in the water for COVID relief. It doesn’t have the votes on either front. Biden already said he would pursue a wage hike in a separate bill if the parliamentarian rules against it during the reconciliation process. This is about Democrats being scared of the ascendant and vocal progressive base which is watching closely here. Primary challenges could ensue, and no one knows that better than Mr. Schumer.