Progressives Urge Biden Administration to Overrule Senate Parliamentarian
Washington, March 1, 2021
Today, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) joined Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) and 22 of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden & Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to overrule the Senate parliamentarian’s decision not to include a $15 minimum wage in the Budget Reconciliation package. Citing both concrete precedent and the severity of the economic crisis, their letter requests that the arcane Byrd rule be disregarded and the $15/hour minimum wage raise be maintained. Should the Senate parliamentarian be overruled, Republicans would need 60 votes to prevent the bill from moving forward with the minimum wage provision included.
“For four years, Progressives have been negotiating in good faith, putting our bold agenda at the center of the American consciousness in the hopes that our country does indeed share our commitment to building a better future,” said Rep. Ro Khanna. “This ruling is a bridge too far. We’ve been asked, politely but firmly, to compromise on nearly all of our principles & goals. Not this time. If we don’t overrule the Senate parliamentarian, we are condoning poverty wages for millions of Americans. That’s why I’m leading my colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to lean on the clear precedent and overrule this misguided decision. Give America a raise.”
“We promised the American people a raise and they deserve to see us do everything in our power to make that a reality,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “Outdated Senate rules and an unelected parliamentarian should not get to decide whether the American people get a $15 minimum wage. It’s been over a decade since the minimum wage increased federally and the American Rescue Plan is an essential vehicle to provide almost 32 million workers with a raise—a majority of which are essential workers putting their lives on the line during this pandemic. The Biden-Harris administration should move forward to ensure that an increase in the minimum wage is included in the Senate’s final relief package.”
“Millions of Americans are depending on their elected representatives to do everything possible to deliver them a raise,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib. “We are urging Vice President Kamala Harris to use her power as president of the United States Senate to push back against an archaic procedure and overrule the Senate Parliamentarian’s advice on the Byrd Rule. Our residents do not have any more time to wait for us to increase the federal minimum wage. Families are struggling to put food on the table while CEOs make record profit during a pandemic. It is time that we show up for those we represent and earn our pay by giving families the raise they deserve.”
“I’ve been fighting to get working people better pay my entire life, and I’m not about to give up that fight now,” said Rep. Andy Levin. “When I go home to Michigan and my constituents ask me why they didn’t get the raise we promised them, an excuse about arcane procedures is not going to cut it. It’s not going to help them pay their bills, and it’s not going to pump billions of dollars into our economy. Only a $15 minimum wage is going to do that. We need to do everything in our power to get this done.”
“The American people gave the Biden administration a mandate in the past election, a mandate that included passing a $15 federal minimum wage,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman. “We didn’t organize and show up at the polls for one unelected person to suppress wages. The parliamentarian's ruling may complicate our path, the Senate must exhaust every possible avenue to deliver this long-overdue increase and lift hundreds of thousands out of poverty. I'm proud to join Rep. Khanna and others in calling for Vice President Harris to use her authority to overrule the parliamentarian. We cannot allow obscure Senate procedural rules to impede progress that would transform the lives of tens of millions of workers, who are overwhelmingly Black and brown.”
“The Senate Parliamentarian’s advice is just that — advice,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “While we live in unprecedented times, disregarding the advisory opinion of the Senate parliamentarian would not be an unprecedented step—it has been done before, and we should do it now to maintain the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan. For many in St. Louis, raising the minimum wage to at least $15 is an issue of racial justice, gender equality, and workers’ rights. The House is doing its part to protect our workers. The Senate must do theirs. We made a promise to the American people, and we must keep it.”
"Millions of Americans are working every single day, and yet, they're struggling to put food on their table and a roof over their families’ heads because they're earning a mere $7.25 an hour,” said Rep. Marie Newman. “Democrats made a promise to the American people that we would raise the minimum wage and it's time to deliver on that promise. We cannot allow for an unelected parliamentarian and arcane Senate rules to stand in our way. It is imperative that Vice President Harris refutes the Byrd Rule and uses her power to raise the minimum wage so we can lift nearly 1 million Americans out of poverty and provide millions the real relief they need during this pandemic. It is the very least we can do for the millions of hard-working Americans that we rely on every single day."
"We cannot allow a parliamentary opinion to stand in the way of a living wage for tens of millions of Americans," said Rep. Mondaire Jones. "The American people delivered a clear mandate for meaningful change that meets the scale and scope of the crises we face, and in this moment that means delivering a living wage. Vice President Harris has the power to overrule the Parliamentarian's recommendation and materially improve the lives of millions of people across this country. This administration has a moral obligation to do exactly that."
The full letter can be viewed here or below.
As the United States continues to battle dual economic and public health crises, it is more important now than ever that we deliver relief to Americans. Eighty-one million people cast their ballots to elect you on a platform that called for a $15 minimum wage. We urge you to keep that promise and call on the Presiding Officer of the Senate to refute the Senate Parliamentarian’s advice on a Byrd Rule point of order and maintain the $15 minimum wage provision in the American Rescue Plan.
This has significant historical precedent. In 1967, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey disregarded the Parliamentarian’s advice while pushing to reduce the filibuster threshold from two-thirds of those present to three-fifths. Vice President Humphrey did the same again in 1969. Ultimately, Republican Vice President Nelson D. Rockefeller partnered with future Vice President Walter Mondale and succeeded in 1975 while again refuting the parliamentarian.
For the last twelve years, working Americans have struggled to get by under a federal minimum wage that remains stuck at $7.25 per hour. Since its establishment in 1938 as part of the New Deal, the federal minimum wage has never gone this long without a boost. In fact, its purchasing power has fallen by nearly twenty-five percent due to inflation since its last increase in 2009. As you know, this policy has disproportionately hurt women and Black and Brown workers. Women make up nearly sixty percent of hourly workers making less than $15 per hour despite comprising only fifty percent of the overall hourly workforce. The disparate impact is even starker among Black and Brown workers, who make up only thirty-six percent of the hourly workforce yet work in nearly half of all jobs earning less than $15 per hour.
We must act now to prevent tens of millions of hardworking Americans from being underpaid any longer. The outdated and complex Byrd rule rooted in restricting progress must not be an impediment to improving people’s lives. You have the authority to deliver a raise for millions of Americans. Thank you for your consideration.