Elizabeth Warren, progressive Dems demand filibuster get scrapped in $15 minimum wage fight

Progressive lawmakers have suggested alternative routes to increasing the minimum wage

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Progressive Democrats renewed their push to kill the Senate filibuster after a Thursday night ruling from the parliamentarian dealt a major blow to their efforts to include a $15-an-hour minimum-wage increase in the coronavirus relief bill.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the non-partisan Senate referee, determined that raising the pay floor from $7.25 an hour is not compliant with budget reconciliation rules, the procedural tool that Democrats are using to pass the measure without any Republican support.

The finding marks a serious setback for the Democratic Party's left-wing faction, which has been pushing the policy for more than a decade and viewed Biden's relief package as the best avenue to make it a reality.  

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In the wake of the ruling, progressive lawmakers began suggesting alternative routes to increasing the minimum wage — including eliminating the filibuster, which requires lawmakers to secure a 60-vote threshold for most legislation unrelated to the budget. 

"Democrats should not be held hostage by Mitch McConnell to help struggling families," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted. "It is time to get rid of the filibuster to raise the minimum wage to $15 and pass the other bold policies that Americans voted for us to deliver."

That sentiment was echoed by other progressives, including Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., who tweeted that it was time to "end the filibuster" and "raise the minimum wage," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as well as Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

Despite the calls from some lawmakers, Senate Democrats will almost certainly be unable to nix the filibuster. Doing so would require the support of all 50 members in order to invoke the "nuclear option" and end the filibuster with a simple majority. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., have previously defended the filibuster, with Manchin saying there is no scenario "whatsoever that I will vote to get rid of the filibuster" in the next two years.

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Even if the parliamentarian had allowed the minimum wage increase, however, it already faced an uphill battle in the Senate: Manchin and Sinema, two of the party's most moderate members, have signaled they would not support increasing the pay floor as part of a broader COVID-19 relief effort. Without the support of all 50 members, Democrats lack the necessary votes to pass the measure even with their slimmest-possible majority. 

The federal minimum wage has not increased in more than a decade, although a growing number of states have voted to adopt their own wage increases. There are 29 states with wages above the federal minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At $14 an hour, California currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost the economy about 1.4 million jobs and would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.