By Will Caraccio
In the Fight for $15, a popular campaign to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, Senate Democrats have just been dealt a major blow—not by Mitch McConnell or the Republican Party, but by an unelected, altogether unknown political figure: the Senate Parliamentarian. In charge of interpreting and enforcing the rules and procedures of the Senate, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled on Thursday, February 25, that the Democrats’ effort to pass the minimum wage bill as a provision of the COVID-19 relief package violated the complicated rules that govern budget bills in the Senate. According to the so-called Byrd Rule, which “limits acceptable provisions in the reconciliation process to those that involve taxing and spending,” the wage hike could still be passed through regular order, though this prospect is unlikely due to the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. That being said, the Byrd Rule strictly prohibits the bill from being appended to the pandemic relief package which passed in the Senate on March 6 (NBC News). Though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asserted that “We [Senate Democrats] are deeply disappointed in this decision,” many claim that this unexpected ruling may be a blessing in disguise for Democrats, whose differing opinions on the $15 minimum wage were beginning to foment party instability. While uniform party support for a bill of this magnitude would be absolutely necessary for its future passage, public statements from at least two Democrats who say $15 is too high have already been issued. Furthermore, the stand-alone bill to increase the minimum wage, which was introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, “has 37 co-sponsors, meaning a number of Democrats may not back the idea” (NPR Morning Edition). So, while the Fight For $15 will continue to rage on in the form of grass-roots demonstrations, in the Senate chamber the Parliamentarian has put it on hold—whether that’s for better or for worse, only time will tell.