The Biden administration and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have their work cut out for them when it comes to advancing their agenda and that’s not because they are bad at whipping votes or laying out a policy vision. It’s because the numbers aren’t flexible here.
Tanden is the one to watch Wednesday, but the futures of a several other nominees are also worth watching. Nominees can’t just come to the Senate for their confirmation hearings and count on advancing with just Demcoratic votes. Tanden’s nomination reveals why that strategy is so untenable.
Two committee hearings that were scheduled to vote on Tanden’s nomination were unexpectedly postponed Wednesday, and an official on one of the committees told CNN senators wanted more time to consider the nomination.
On Covid relief
The House is on track to pass their Covid relief bill Friday with few or any defections. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told CNN’s Manu Raju on Tuesday he was confident he could hold his caucus together. In the Senate, that is going to be a bit more challenging.
Multiple Senate sources familiar with the matter told CNN the arguments on both sides were made Wednesday morning on the minimum wage hike. The Senate’s parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has not yet ruled on the matter, and it’s not clear yet when she will.
Whenever the decision comes, it’s hard to remember another time that a parliamentarian’s decision was being watched so closely. Of course whatever MacDonough decides could impact the political dynamics of Biden’s package going forward. With minimum wage, Democrats could be staring down a potential intra-party schism over Biden’s first major legislative package. Without it, they could be facing a barrage of criticism from their progressive base that won them back the White House to begin with.
What will the parliamentarian decide?
Anyone who claims to know the answer to this question is guessing at best. CNN spoke to the former Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin on Tuesday night to walk through how he would be looking at the $15 minimum wage, but even he contended it was a “tough call” on whether it was allowed through the budget reconciliation process. He told CNN he could honestly see this going either way.
In order to get through, Democrats are going to have to prove that a provision has more than just an “incidental” effect on the budget. That word has been interpreted a lot of ways by multiple parliamentarians, but here is how it applies to minimum wage. On the one hand, the minimum wage proposal has a $55 billion impact on the federal budget over the next decade- more money than some past provisions that have gotten through this scrutiny. But, those impacts on the budget are also coming from the Congressional Budget Office estimating raising wages will raise prices of goods and services and that those higher prices will be passed onto the federal government as it buys materials. The CBO also estimates that if you raise the minimum wage it could have some effect on how much to government spends on some social programs like food stamps or unemployment insurance. Is that direct enough? Is that more than incidental? That’s the question here.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.
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