Liberals are furious with the late-breaking — but not entirely unexpected — ruling from the nonpartisan Senate umpire last night that the provision cannot remain in President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package as written. Elizabeth MacDonough sided against Democrats, determining that the push to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour does not meet the criteria to be considered under fast-track budget rules they're using to pass the bill with a simple majority.
- “The progressive base understands that Vice President Harris can disregard the parliamentarian,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Power Up. “[Vice President Nelson] Rockefeller did it in 1975 and according to parliamentarian Robert Dove, Vice President [Hubert] Humphrey did routinely. There is no way any senator would sink the final [coronavirus] bill, despite what they may say now. This simply comes down to whether the VP will choose to include the $15 or not.”
A long shot: The White House has publicly ruled out overruling the parliamentarian — and it's unlikely that all 50 Senate Democrats would stand united on this even if it got on board. It's hard to imagine Harris would be the tiebreaking vote “since at least one Senate Democrat — Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) — has said he would not vote to overrule the parliamentarian,” per our colleague Erica Werner.
But that's not stopping the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus from reaching out to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain seeking support to overturn the decision, according to a Democratic lawmaker.
- “We cannot allow the advisory opinion of an unelected parliamentarian and Republican obstructionism stop us from delivering on our promise to voters,” the CPC tweeted last night.
IT'S HAPPENING ANYWAY IN THE HOUSE: The package that will be voted on by the House today will include the minimum wage hike. “House Democrats believe that the minimum-wage hike is necessary,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Therefore this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the floor [Friday]. Democrats in the House are determined to pursue every possible path in the Fight for 15.”
This sets up Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) for a tricky decision, per Erica. “He could take out the minimum-wage language before putting the bill on the Senate floor, or try to keep it in the bill — whether by challenging the parliamentarian’s ruling or trying to rewrite the provision in such a way that it could pass muster under the Senate’s complicated rules.” Democrats are pressing the bill forward without GOP support by using the budget reconciliation process that bypasses the 60 votes normally required for significant legislation — but has strict rules limiting what can be included.
- Schumer vowed to fight but didn't specify how: “We are deeply disappointed in this decision. We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, without specifying how they could fight. “The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality.”
Remember: The minimum wage increase was always a long shot, parliamentarian ruling aside. “Manchin and a second Senate Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), had indicated opposition to including the minimum-wage increase in Biden’s covid relief bill anyway, so even if the parliamentarian had allowed it, it’s not clear the provision would have been able to advance,” Erica notes. “Nevertheless, liberals had been holding out hope of being able to keep all Democrats onboard to approve the overall bill with the minimum wage included.”
- Ripple effects: “If the Senate sends the legislation back to the House without the minimum-wage increase, liberals in that chamber will have to decide whether to vote for it anyway. The legislation does include many other items Democrats widely support, including an increased child tax credit, a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals, increased and expanded unemployment insurance, and hundreds of billions of dollars for cities and states, schools, vaccinations and testing.”
- “The House has advanced stand-alone bills increasing the minimum wage in the past, but it’s highly unlikely the Senate would agree to such legislation — at least not at the $15-an-hour level liberals support. One possibility is to find compromise at a lower level — Manchin has endorsed $11 an hour — and then to try to get it in the bill in a different way, for example by crafting it more narrowly.”
Some ideas are emerging on the Senate side: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), slamming the decision, suggested that he'd find an alternative way to push the minimum wage hike through by considering “pairing the wage increase with tax penalties on corporations that don’t pay a higher minimum wage, which might change whether it meets the parliamentarian’s criteria,” according to Erica.
Klain will also have to thread the needle on this one: “Progressives are a big part of our party and making sure their voices are heard here at the White House is a big part of my job,” he told the Daily Beast's Hanna Trudo earlier this week.
He's come under scrutiny this week over his ardent defense (and recommendation) of Neera Tanden, Biden's choice to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, whose nomination is poised to deal the administration a significant political defeat, our colleagues Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim report. “As Tanden’s strongest supporter in Biden’s inner circle, Klain has been adamant that the administration should continue to push for Tanden’s nomination despite the long odds,” they write.
- "The rocky rollout of Tanden’s nomination is partly the result of the White House misjudging how harshly Republicans and at least one Democrat would judge her record, as well as some problems in failing to consult lawmakers ahead of the nomination. Tanden’s challenges in being confirmed also underscore the risks for the president’s chief of staff, who must maintain Biden’s confidence across a range of personnel and policy decisions."
But some liberals speculate that Tanden's sinking fate may have been part of the strategy – and that it may be easier for Manchin to support the coronavirus relief bill with provisions Democrats broadly want if he comes out against a controversial nominee.
- “People should acknowledge that Biden's bet on Ron Klain as peacemaker-in-chief paid off. The culture of Democratic unity and backbone that he fostered is working," Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "Manchin will help deliver a huge covid relief bill, Biden will get a giant victory, and voters will see Democrats delivering popular results.”
- And some are questioning how critical Tanden is to their agenda: “If [Interior Secretary nominee] Deb Haaland was threatened, that would be a hill to die on,” a progressive Democratic source told us. "She is the tip of the spear progressive appointee to the Cabinet, and if she went down it would send a message that no inspirational progressive could get confirmed. Neera Tanden does not stand for the battle of the soul of the party." Haaland appears headed for confirmation, with Manchin's support.
Here's what to expect today: “Democrats will [advance] the bill through the House Rules Committee and [then] to the full chamber,” CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reports. Once it passes, they will send the bill to the Senate.
- Democrats have to sort all this out quickly. “Programs putting in place a $300 per week unemployment enhancement, an expansion of insurance to gig workers and self-employed individuals, and an increase in the number of benefit weeks expire [March 14].”
Outside the Beltway
HAPPENING TODAY: Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Houston to discuss relief efforts after a winter storm that left millions without water or power.
CPAC PREVIEW: The annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off Thursday night in Orlando.
The theme? “America Uncanceled.”
- Today, “Donald Trump Jr. will speak [about] ‘Reigniting the Spirit of the American Dream,’” the New York Times’s Elaina Plott reports.
- Tomorrow, “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led a Trump-backed lawsuit to undo Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, will speak alongside Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), an early organizer of ‘Stop the Steal’ rallies,” our colleague David Weigel reports.
- Sunday, former president and keynote speaker Trump will make an appearance. He is expected to position himself as the party’s presumptive 2024 nominee.
It’s all about Trump. “The Conservative Political Action Conference has evolved from a fractious meeting of Republicans and libertarians into a celebration of the 45th president and the airing of his grievances,” per Weigel.
- “Of the 47 Republican members of Congress scheduled to speak, just nine voted to uphold every state’s election results on Jan. 6. None voted for impeachment.”
- Who’s not going? Former vice president Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
👀: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News's Bret Baier he would "absolutely" support Donald Trump if the former president won the Republican nomination in 2024.
CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF WARNS OF SECOND ATTACK: “The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police [Yogananda D. Pittman] warned lawmakers Thursday that militia members involved in the Jan. 6 riot ‘want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible’ during Biden’s first congressional address,” our colleague Karoun Demirjian reports.
- “Pittman's comments mark one of the first times law enforcement officials have publicly cited specific threats against the Capitol and lawmakers related to Biden's expected address before a joint session of Congress,” CNN's Zachary Cohen, Marshall Cohen and Whitney Wild report.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION CONDUCTS FIRST AIRSTRIKE IN SYRIA: “The Biden administration conducted an airstrike against alleged Iranian-linked fighters in Syria on Thursday, signaling its intent to push back against violence believed to be sponsored by Tehran,” our colleague Missy Ryan reports.
- The attack was “authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
- “The single strike targeted a cluster of buildings and was believed to have killed up to a handful of people,” a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told our colleague.
Biden has spoken to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. “Biden spoke for the first time Thursday with Salman, following weeks of speculation that relations were headed for a deep freeze as Biden scheduled the imminent release of a U.S. intelligence report implicating Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” our colleague Karen DeYoung reports.
- Although the readout did not mention Khashoggi by name, it did say that Biden “affirmed the importance [of] universal human rights and would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.”
- “it remains unclear whether the administration intends to hold [bin Salman] accountable for the Khashoggi murder [through] sanctions or criminal indictment.”
In the media
- On anti-Asian violence: ‘Nobody came, nobody helped’: Fears of anti-Asian violence rattle the community. By The Post’s Marian Liu and Rachel Hatzipanagos.
- On love: Romance blossoms for seniors during quarantine. By the New York Times’s Maggie Parker.
- Perspective: Go ahead and fail. By the Atlantic’s Arthur C. Brooks.
- Celebrating Black History Month: How Negro History Week became Black History Month and why it matters now. By the New York Times’s Veronica Chambers.
- ‘They might not come back at all’: Unprecedented numbers of students have disappeared during the pandemic. Schools are working harder than ever to find them. By The Post’s Moriah Balingit.
- ‘I would leave, but I don’t have anywhere to go’: Life amid the ruins of QAnon: ‘I wanted my family back’. By The Post’s Greg Jaffe and Jose A. Del Real.
- Big city, local news: She escaped the genocide in Rwanda. Now, 27 years later, she can’t escape its politics. By The Post’s Petula Dvorak.
- Inside Greece’s migrant and refugee camps: Refugee who set herself on fire in Greece is charged with arson. By the New York Times’s Niki Kitsantonis.
- Happy retirement: ‘You’ve made The Post swashbuckling once again’: Marty Baron receives a star-studded farewell and dishes in a wide-ranging exit interview. By Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo.
LADY GAGA OFFERS HALF A MILLION REWARD FOR KIDNAPPED DOGS: “Someone shot Lady Gaga's dog walker Wednesday night and then fled with two of the pop star's French bulldogs [Koji and Gustav],” Buzzfeed’s Salvador Hernandez reports.
- “The victim, was taken to a hospital [and is] in stable condition as of Thursday evening.”