Sanders, Senate progressives: Damn the parliamentarian's torpedo, full steam ahead on Fight for 15

Full speed ahead — to what, exactly? Instead of Fight for 15, Senate Dems might have to fight to hang onto fifty if they keep pushing their minimum-wage hike. They can’t even get to fifty on the policy itself. From a policy perspective, the insistence on dragging out this loss from tactical to strategic all the way to almost existential is mystifying.

Until one recalls that politics has now become entirely performative, that is. With that in mind, this obstinacy makes all the sense in the world:

Liberal senators and outside pressure groups are steaming over the Senate’s seeming failure to move a COVID-19 relief package with a provision hiking the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. …

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate’s leading proponent of a $15 minimum wage, on Monday called on Democratic colleagues to “ignore” the parliamentarian’s ruling and pledged he would force a vote on the issue his week.

“My personal view is that the idea that we have a Senate staffer, a high-ranking staffer, deciding whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not is nonsensical,” he said. “We have got to make that decision, not a staffer who’s unelected, so my own view is that we should ignore the rulings, the decision of the parliamentarian.”

Should Sanders ignore the fact that at least two of his own caucus agrees with the parliamentarian? Both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have repeatedly and publicly opposed adding a minimum-wage hike to the COVID-19 relief/stimulus bill on the obvious grounds that it’s not relief, and it’s the opposite of stimulus. On top of that, the Fight for 15 has nothing to do with federal budgets, both Manchin and Sinema argue, and the parliamentarian clearly agrees.

Besides, Sanders’ argument dismissing the parliamentarian’s role raises its own questions about arrogance. How “nonsensical” is it that 100 elected officials believe that they should order a raise to $15 for 30 million Americans on the backs of business owners? Especially in the middle of an economic crisis created by government orders sidelining many of them for months? And especially when only 48 of those 100 would agree to do it in the first place?

The only way to accomplish this now is in a separate bill, but that requires sixty votes to get past cloture. Sanders can’t even get fifty for this bill now, and progressives can’t get to fifty for a rule change to get rid of the filibuster either, again thanks to Sinema and Manchin. So what are they trying to do? Get rid of the filibuster anyway, despite it being a stupid and futile gesture:

Progressives are willing to accept defeat on the minimum wage for now and vote for President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package. But they’re channeling their energy into a renewed push to kill the filibuster.

One day after the Senate parliamentarian effectively forced a $15 minimum wage hike out of Democrats’ coronavirus relief package, leading liberal activists are racing to turn their bitter setback into opportunity. The need to sacrifice a key Biden priority in order to ensure the Covid aid bill can pass the Senate with a simple majority has handed progressive lawmakers and their allied groups a new talking point in their long-running quest to eliminate the legislative filibuster.

“We promised a $15 minimum wage,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “So if that $15 minimum wage isn’t in this package, we are going to have to figure out a way to get it through. And if that means reforming the filibuster, then we should reform the filibuster.”

Well, here’s an alternate though: maybe stop promising what you can’t deliver. In fact, Jayapal should consider what the recent election had to say about that promise. Democrats expected to gain significantly in the House and Senate with Joe Biden at the top of their ticket and Donald Trump at the top of the GOP’s. And yet despite a massive turnout that should normally favor Democrats, they became the first party in modern history to lose ground in the House while winning the presidency — and only gained in the Senate because Trump and the GOP did just about everything they could do to give away the two seats in the Georgia runoff.

But of course, promising what you can’t deliver is also part of the new normal in performative politics. Rather than concede that their position isn’t mainstream, its advocates now want to conduct even more performative politics by threatening the one man who can send their party back into the Senate minority and block their entire agenda:

In case anyone wonders, all this would do would be to still lose … on the minimum-wage provision, and possibly on the entire COVID-19 bill if Democrats insist on keeping it with an override of the parliamentarian. They’ll lose on the filibuster “reform” too even though the math doesn’t add up with the filibuster off the table anyway, as Manchin made clear again yesterday:

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who many consider the second-most-powerful politician in the U.S., responded emphatically on Monday when asked if he would ever wavier [sic] in his support of the procedural tool known as the filibuster.

“Never!” he told Fox News’ Jason Donner. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about never?”

Earlier this year, Manchin told the Washington Post, “I will not vote to bust the filibuster under any condition, on anything that you can think of.” He was joined by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has said that she is not open to “changing her mind.”

If the progressives want to get Manchin out of the way, they could end up getting that wish … to their everlasting regret. Democrats have faded away in West Virginia, with Manchin the only Democrat left holding a seat won in a state-wide election. Not one Democrat won 44% in statewide races in November, and only two of the six got to 40%. Jim Justice switched to the GOP in 2017, and he won 65% of the vote in his re-election bid. Joe Biden didn’t carry a single county in West Virginia and didn’t even get to 30% in the statewide vote. “Did I say faded away”? Democrats have crashed and burned in WV, thanks in large part to progressives and their agenda.

Manchin has every incentive except affection to switch parties … and affection is looking pretty thin if Manchin wants to win another term. There’s no better time than now to switch to the GOP and negotiate a good deal to put Mitch McConnell back in charge of the Senate. If Pressley, Bush, and Omar drum Manchin out of the Democratic Party, they will find out firsthand what a stupid and futile gesture produces.

Hint: It won’t be nearly as fun as it sounds. But they really are the ones who can do it.

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Jazz Shaw 9:21 AM on September 22, 2023
John Sexton 8:40 PM on September 21, 2023