This article originally appeared on The National Review on February 9, 2021.
The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal included a handful of partisan measures completely unrelated to pandemic relief, including increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current level of $7.25 an hour. Lacking sufficient bipartisan support to meet the 60-vote majority required under the Senate’s filibuster rules, Democrats are using a legislative process known as budget reconciliation to pass their bill. Reconciliation requires a simple majority vote for passage but is limited to bills on spending, revenue, and the federal-debt limit. A minimum-wage bill clearly does not qualify.
The problem for Democrats is the Senate’s “Byrd rule,” under which the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian is authorized to strip “extraneous” provisions out of such legislation. Provisions are extraneous if they fail to produce a change in outlays or revenues or produce a change that is “is merely incidental.”
President Biden recently conceded that a minimum-wage increase is an unlikely candidate for a budget reconciliation. In a pre-recorded interview on Friday with CBS host Norah O’Donnell, Biden stated that he didn’t believe the minimum-wage hike was “going to survive” as part of the bill. You could almost hear America’s struggling small businesses emit a sigh of relief.
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