The minimum wage increase “is a value, this is a priority, and we will get it done, but let’s not be distracted from what is happening in this legislation,” Ms. Pelosi said. “This is a spectacular piece of legislation. While the Senate has prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be distracted from what is in here, because it is a great bill.”
In the Senate, Democrats sought to salvage their bid to push through the large increase in the federal minimum wage without scuttling the urgently needed pandemic aid package. But the effort faces long odds in the evenly divided chamber, where Republicans and some centrist Democrats are opposed to the idea of more than doubling the minimum wage as part of the stimulus plan.
After the Senate official’s ruling, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, and other top Democrats were considering a plan on Friday that would penalize corporations that pay workers less than $15 per hour, a senior Democratic aide said.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said the still-evolving proposal would impose an escalating tax on the payrolls of large corporations, starting at 5 percent, if any of the companies’ workers earned less than a certain hourly wage. It would include what Mr. Wyden called “safeguards” to prevent companies from laying off workers and replacing them with contract employees to avoid the tax.
“While conversations are continuing, I believe this ‘Plan B’ provides us a path to move forward and get this done through the reconciliation process,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement.
Democrats are using the reconciliation process in order to speed Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan to enactment and steer clear of Republican obstruction. But on Thursday, Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, advised senators that their legislation to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 violated the stringent rules that limit what can be included in a reconciliation measure. The ruling opened the door for Republicans to demand that the proposal be jettisoned from the stimulus bill when it comes before the Senate.
It has prompted outrage among progressive activists, calls for Democratic leaders to fire or overrule Ms. MacDonough, and demands for the elimination of the filibuster to allow Democrats to enact the wage increase and other priorities over Republican objections.