Progressives to Biden: Make Harris overrule Senate parliamentarian on minimum-wage hike

Last night, I wrote that “it’s over,” but I inadvertently left out the rest of the phrase — “but the crying.” Progressives in Congress demanded the firing of Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough for the obvious conclusion that a minimum-wage hike is not primarily a budgetary policy, making it out of order in a reconciliation process. And if Chuck Schumer won’t fire MacDonough, progressives want Kamala Harris to overrule her and force the Senate to deal with the Fight for 15:


After MacDonough on Thursday dashed the majority party’s hopes of passing a $15-an-hour minimum-wage increase within the bill, Democrats were left to debate a variety of options, including redoing the legislation, dropping the wage increase and trying to override MacDonough’s ruling.

But at least one lawmaker called for an even more radical solution: firing the Senate’s referee.

“Abolish the filibuster. Replace the parliamentarian,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said in a tweet Thursday. “What’s a Democratic majority if we can’t pass our priority bills? This is unacceptable.”

Perhaps Omar should familiarize herself with the history of that kind of thinking. Harry Reid ignored the parliamentarian — MacDonough herself, in fact — in dropping the nuclear option in 2013 and setting a new precedent for in-session rules changes. That got Democrats their majority rule on presidential appointments, but also bought them four years of court stacking by Republicans when Donald Trump got elected three years later.

Other progressives want Harris to overrule MacDonough, but that’s not going to happen either. For one thing, it would still leave them at least two votes short on the minimum-wage hike, and potentially the whole bill:

Most Democrats upset at MacDonough’s ruling on Thursday pushed less extreme responses, like overruling her. If Vice President Harris chose that path, Democrats would still need votes to do so, and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has publicly vowed to oppose going against the parliamentarian.

“The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a tweet Thursday evening. “The VP can overrule them — as has been done before. We should do EVERYTHING we can to keep our promise, deliver a $15 minimum wage, and give 27 million workers a raise.”


Overruling MacDonough won’t deliver squat. As the Post notes, Manchin’s opposition takes Democrats to 49 votes, and it wasn’t just Manchin either. Kyrsten Sinema insisted on abiding by the parliamentarian and had already said she didn’t think the minimum-wage hike belonged in the bill. Both are also hard no on eliminating the filibuster. Why would Harris take this extraordinary step only to get to 48?

The White House has a clearer view of the situation. Biden chief of staff Ron Klain had already let everyone know that these options are not on the table, anticipating the decision Biden himself had predicted a week earlier:

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the administration would not try to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she decides an increase in the minimum wage must be stripped from a coronavirus relief package.

“Certainly that’s not something we would do. We’re going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed,” Klain said on MSBNC Wednesday. …

As president of the Senate, Vice President Harris would be able to overturn the parliamentarian if she decides the minimum wage provision must be scrapped. However, Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years, is a staunch institutionalists who has expressed hesitance to changing the upper chamber’s rules.

Nonsense. Biden may not be a mathematician, but at least he can count. With Manchin and Sinema firmly opposed to the provision and the alternate solutions, the highest anyone can count is 48, which is just enough to lose in the end. Pushing Manchin and Sinema any harder won’t get Schumer to 50, but it might get McConnell to 51 on a more permanent basis, which would be a disaster not just for Biden but also for his progressive allies. Rather than lament about impotent majorities, progressives would be left to lament about impotent minority caucuses for the rest of this session.


The Fight for 15 is over, at least until 2023, except for the crying. Biden knows that, even if his progressive allies have trouble doing the math.

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