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For Senate rules arbiter, minimum wage is latest minefield

Chuck Schumer
Posted at 9:33 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 21:33:53-05

Elizabeth MacDonough has guided the Senate through two impeachment trials. She's vexed Democrats and Republicans alike with parliamentary opinions and helped rescue Electoral College certificates from a pro-Trump mob ransacking the Capitol.

Now, the Senate's first-ever woman parliamentarian is about to show anew why she’s one of Washington’s most potent, respected yet obscure figures. Any day, she’s expected to reveal if she thinks a federal minimum wage boost should be stricken from Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan.

Her decision will be a political minefield likely to elicit groans from whichever side she disappoints. And it will play an outsized role in deciding the wage increase’s fate.

The bill includes an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next four years, which several moderate Democrats in the Senate have been apprehensive about supporting.

Earlier this month, Biden suggested in an interview with CBS News that the final bill likely would not include a minimum wage increase. Biden cited Senate rules that limit the type of bills that can be passed using the budget reconciliation process. Using budget reconciliation allows the stimulus package to be passed by a simple majority in the Senate instead of 60 out of 100.

“Well, apparently, that's not going to occur because of the rules of the United States Senate,” Biden told O’Donnell. “I don't think it's going to survive."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate’s Budget Committee, has tasked the chamber’s parliamentarian to examine whether a minimum wage increase can be approved through budget reconciliation.