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Columnist explains how Republicans' mistake gives Democrats a 'big opening'

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Supporters of a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage suffered a disappointment this week when the U.S. Senate’s parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruled that the policy cannot remain in the Democratic coronavirus relief package as it is currently written. Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman discusses the ramifications of this development in his Thursday column, warning that if Democrats don’t find a way to be as bold and aggressive as possible with their agenda, it could hurt them in the 2022 midterms.

“Right now,” Waldman explains, “Democrats are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out how to increase the minimum wage — something President Biden ran on, their entire party believes in, and which is overwhelmingly popular with the public…. Yet the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that a straight minimum wage increase can’t pass via the reconciliation process — the only way to pass a bill with a simple majority vote — the details of which are incomprehensible, or endlessly maddening, or both.”

The real problem, though, isn’t the parliamentarian herself so much. Democrats can work around her if they want. The problem is that a few key Democrats — most notably, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have explicitly prioritized preserving arcane Senate procedure over action. And he’s reluctant to raise the minimum wage to $15, anyway.

Waldman continues, “So, Democrats have to find some kind of fiscal somersault to try to get the minimum wage increase into the COVID relief bill. Maybe they could impose a tax on companies that don’t increase their wages, or do something else to satisfy the parliamentarian by cloaking a non-budgetary provision in budgetary clothing.”

Expressing his frustration, Waldman points out that Democrats have run into this hurdle in the Senate at a time when Republicans “have seldom looked more feckless.” And ideally, he says, Democrats should be showing U.S. voters that they are a party of substantial ideas while Republicans are short on them.

“When we’re caught in a pandemic and an economic crisis, only so many people will get worked up about whether a transgender girl is allowed to play softball,” Waldman explains.

By focusing on the culture war, he argues, Republicans give Democrats a big opportunity to enact a popular economic agenda — if they’re all willing to take it.

“That gives Democrats the chance to move forward confidently with their agenda, an agenda that is enormously …read more


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