In a blow to Democrats, the Senate parliamentarian ruled the chamber cannot include President Joe Biden's proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill the party aims to pass without Republican votes, lawmakers said on Thursday.
Prospects for raising the U.S. minimum wage took a potentially fatal blow Thursday as a Senate official ruled that Democratic lawmakers cannot fast-track the proposal through Congress.
Democrats had hoped to include the minimum wage hike in their $1.9 trillion relief bill, which they intended to pass through the Democratic-controlled Senate without Republican votes.
In a statement, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was "disappointed" in the decision.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and was last raised in 2009.
Biden and most of his fellow Democrats want to double the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
But Thursday's ruling means that Democrats will likely have to pass a separate bill, and undertake the difficult task of garnering some Republican support for the measure.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, welcomed the Senate parliamentarian's ruling on Twitter, writing that quote "reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change - by either party - on a simple majority vote." Yet despite Thursday's decision, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the Democratic-controlled chamber would still include the minimum wage provision before sending the relief bill to the Senate.
That would leave Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with the consequential choice of either removing the provision or challenging Thursday's decision.