Biden hit with first Cabinet defeat as White House withdraws Neera Tanden nomination for budget chief

Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden.

  • Biden’s pick to head the White House budget office withdrew on Tuesday.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin came out in opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination, jeopardizing her path forward in an evenly divided Senate.
  • Tanden sparked controversy because of her heated attacks on Republicans — and some on the left, too.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden was hit with his first cabinet defeat on Tuesday as his pick to oversee the White House budget office withdrew from consideration after generating resistance from a key conservative Democrat and a group of moderate Republican senators.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience, and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

In a letter alongside Biden’s statement, Tanden wrote that the nomination was the “honor of a lifetime” and withdrew to not let the process become a distraction.

“I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation,” Tanden said in a withdrawal letter released by the White House. “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

Tanden’s nomination was imperiled after Sen. Joe Manchin said he opposed her nomination to lead the White House budget office last month. The West Virginia Democrat cited her “overtly partisan statements” as a potential hurdle to bipartisanship in Congress.

The loss of Manchin’s vote meant Democrats needed at least one Republican senator to support her in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker. Then her path to confirmation narrowed further after two centrist GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, announced their opposition as well.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the lone swing vote that could rescue Tanden’s nomination. The pair met in person on Monday, but Murkowski reiterated a day later she was still undecided on her confirmation.

Tanden’s history of caustic attacks on GOP lawmakers over social media as well as against independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont generated substantial controversy around her nomination.

Her social media posts prompted many Senate Republicans to strongly oppose Tanden. She once referred to Collins as “Scrooge” and also lambasted Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas as a “fraud” on Twitter.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio brought up the social media posts during Tanden’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee last month. She apologized, saying “I regret that language and take responsibility for it.”

Many of Tanden’s controversial tweets are no longer visible. Hundreds were deleted from her account in 2020 after Biden nominated her to lead OMB.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain recently said that Tanden would receive another job in the White House if her nomination fell through – one that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

Democrats assailed Republicans for hypocrisy because former President Donald Trump often tweeted scathing attacks against members of his own party. At Tanden’s second confirmation hearing on Feb. 10, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan contrasted Tanden’s social-media activity with Trump’s: “We’ve endured four years of the ultimate mean tweets.” 

Tanden, who was a close ally of Hillary Clinton for many years and advised her during the 2016 presidential campaign, also clashed with the Sanders camp over the direction of the Democratic Party in the 2016 and 2020 primaries.

During a second confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator sharply questioned Tanden about the corporate donations the Center for American Progress received while she helmed it, in addition to her social media activity.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Sanders would not reveal whether he supported Tanden’s confirmation and only acknowledged that she did not have enough votes.

“I will make that decision when the vote takes place,” Sanders said.

The White House and Biden initially said they would seek to shore up her support among Republicans to pave the way for her confirmation. “I think we’ll find the votes to get her confirmed,” Biden said last month.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Tanden had met with 44 Republican and Democratic senators so far and won crucial endorsements from the US Chamber of Commerce and labor unions.

“The president nominated her because he believes she’d be a stellar OMB Director. She’s tested,” Psaki said.  “She is a leading policy expert. She has led a think tank in Washington that has done a great deal of work on policy issues but has done a great deal of bipartisan work as well.”

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Some Senate Democrats eye changes to unemployment benefits and direct payments in the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan

Manchin vote a rama
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks with reporters before a series of Senate votes known as vote-a-rama in the Capitol on February 4, 2021.

  • Some Democrats are pushing to change unemployment benefits and stimulus checks in the $1.9 trillion stimulus.
  • Manchin suggested a $300 federal jobless benefit ending in the summer; others want money for broadband.
  • Another Democratic senator said she favored lowering the income threshold for the new stimulus checks.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Senate Democrats are up against a narrow timeline to approve a $1.9 trillion stimulus package and get it to President Joe Biden’s desk. But some Democratic senators are eyeing changes to key components of the legislation, particularly unemployment insurance and stimulus checks.

The jockeying among Democrats to amend provisions for direct aid comes as they attempt to enact the legislation by March 14, the deadline for when numerous unemployment measures expire, including a $300 federal benefit. They have only days to settle policy differences, and it may shape the course of the economic recovery.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the measure could be advanced as early as Wednesday. Asked if he would support targeting some aspects of the bill, he responded: “We want to get the biggest, strongest, boldest bill that can pass. And that’s what we’re working to do.”

He said discussions were ongoing between the Biden administration and a group of nine Democratic senators that includes Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia; and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat.

The relief package would provide $1,400 stimulus checks for taxpayers; $400 in federal unemployment benefits through the end of August; $350 billion in aid to state and local governments; $200 billion in school funding; $50 billion for virus testing and tracing; and a major revamp of the child tax credit.

Biden called into a Senate Democratic lunch on Tuesday and urged lawmakers to approve the bill quickly. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters that “he got on and kind of gave us a rally call.”

Inside the group of nine

Manchin said Tuesday he supported a $300 benefit that would expire sometime in the summer.  He appeared to suggest the end of June as a possible end-date.

“I’m thinking by end of June, first of July we’re gonna have most people inoculated,” the West Virginia Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill. “So by that time there should be doors opening up, ready to go.”

Shaheen indicated she supported designing a new pot of money for broadband and healthcare providers. “Those are two areas we’re really hoping to see additional funding,” she told reporters. 

She suggested those initiatives could be financed with a lower check income threshold for married couples and an extension of the federal jobless benefit at $300 instead of $400. 

The push to cut unemployment benefits encountered early Democratic resistance. “I oppose that. I don’t know if it will prevail, but I’m for $400,” Durbin told reporters. Still, he said he was open to restructuring a third wave of direct payments.

That part of the legislation is far from settled. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he believed there was “growing support” for unemployment benefits to end in September. “I think we’re making a lot of headway,” he told reporters, without specifying further.

Other Democrats pushed back against the idea of restricting stimulus check eligibility. “I think the president has made it clear what his views are and I believe those will prevail,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told Insider.

The House approved the package on Saturday, giving Democrats only two weeks to approve the legislation in the Senate, where it will likely be amended. A second vote-a-rama will occur on Thursday afternoon, kicking off a long amendment process which is expected to end with approval of the bill by the end of the week.

Then the amended bill must go back to the House for final passage before Biden can sign it into law.

Democrats are employing a process known as reconciliation to push the rescue package through without Republican votes. The legislation must adhere to strict budgetary guidelines so it can pass with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate, but the Democrats’ slim majority means they cannot afford to lose a single vote.

Republicans are slamming the legislation as a Democratic wishlist of unrelated priorities. “This is a wildly expensive proposal largely unrelated to the problem,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ll be fighting this in every way that we can.”

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Sen. Joe Manchin on ending the filibuster: ‘Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?’

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Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives for the Senate Impeachment trials at the Capitol on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

  • US Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said Monday he will “never” change his mind on the filibuster.
  • The filibuster means that 60 votes are needed to pass most legislation in the Senate.
  • “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?” Manchin said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In a democracy, 50% plus one equals a governing majority. But in the US Senate, it takes 60 votes – or arcane maneuvers like budget “reconciliation” – to get much of anything done thanks to the filibuster, a Senate rule allowing a senator or senators from the minority party to hold up a bill, which has ossified into a permanent obstacle.

And that, Sen. Joe Manchin said on Monday, will “never” change so long as he’s around.

Democrats, in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, are eager to utilize their trifecta to deliver memorable reforms ahead of the next mid-term elections, which have historically seen the ruling party suffer setbacks.

Some of it can be done the 50 plus one way: the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on track to be passed this week includes $1,400 checks, a $400 per week boost in unemployment, and billions in aid for state and local governments. But a ruling by the Senate’s parliamentarian means it will not include a hike in the minimum wage – and Republican support for $15 an hour by 2025 does not appear to be in the offing.

But, as critics are quick to note, there is nothing in the US Constitution that demands that a Senate majority’s legislation be stymied in perpetuity by a filibuster (and the need to get 60 votes to end debate). Indeed, that simple Senate majority could elect to just do away with what is just a tradition, not a law.

Manchin, the senator from West Virginia, is one of two Democrats standing in the way of that (the other is Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema). And he’s not going to change his mind.

“Never!” he shouted at a journalist who asked if setbacks to the Democratic agenda might lead him to reconsider, per a pool report filed Monday night by Bloomberg News’ Erik Wasson. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?”

If Manchin’s party is unable to move forward with other big-ticket items, however, expect rank-and-file Democrats and members of the press to keep asking him the question.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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The $15 minimum wage poses a major hurdle for Senate Democrats as they race to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus

Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin on Capitol Hill.

  • Senate Democrats face a major hurdle: how to pass a $15 minimum wage.
  • Two Democratic senators already say they oppose it, jeopardizing its path ahead.
  • A Senate parliamentarian ruling will decide whether it can be included in the final stimulus plan.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Senate Democrats want to enact a new $1.9 trillion rescue package within weeks, but one major hurdle stands between them and the bill’s final passage: whether it will include a $15 minimum wage increase.

Once the House approves the legislation and sends it to the Senate, the wage provision is likely to spark some clashes among Democratic senators. The minimum-wage increase in the Biden rescue plan would be phased in over five years and eliminate tipped wages. 

Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they oppose the measure. The resistance of these two lawmakers imperils the measure  even if it clears all the hurdles required of a reconciliation package (the strict budgetary procedure that Democrats are employing to bypass Republicans). A looming ruling from the Senate parliamentarian will likely pose obstacles.

“There might be a few other Democrats with pretty significant concerns about the minimum wage increase,” Jim Manley, a former senior Democratic aide, said in an interview. “No matter how the parliamentarian rules, I’m not sure the votes are there in the Senate to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

The Senate parliamentarian serves as a neutral arbiter of reconciliation, a process that will allow Democrats to approve a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes in the upper chamber instead of the usual 60. Reconciliation requires every provision of a bill to be related to the federal budget, or else the parliamentarian can toss it out.

If the minimum wage doesn’t survive this process, that could complicate Democrats’ swift timeline for approval, targeted for mid-March. But even if it does survive, in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties, every Democrat must support the final package.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee with jurisdiction over reconciliation, told reporters on Tuesday a ruling may come in the next day or two. Progressives like Sanders are championing the measure as a boon to low-paid workers.

$11 an hour versus $15 an hour

The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised from $7.25 since 2009, and labor advocates say a bill should lift wages for essential workers and others putting themselves at risk in the pandemic.

“To say that we can support jobless workers, teachers, caregivers, and medical professionals without supporting workers earning $7.25 an hour isn’t just bad policy, it’s inhumane,” Elizabeth Pancotti, policy director of Employ America, said on Twitter. “Economic relief must include raising the minimum wage.”

But Republicans argue that raising wages during a pandemic would cause employers to shed jobs. Some Democrats share those concerns as well.

“I think small business has got to be kept in mind, and I think there are a number of different variations that are being proposed that help insulate the impact in terms of small business,” Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado told the Wall Street Journal.

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated the $15 minimum wage plan would cause 1.4 million job losses, but lift 900,000 people out of poverty. 

There is some GOP support to raise wages. On Tuesday, Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10 over four years once the pandemic is over. They would also tie it to mandatory use of the E-Verify program so employers can keep tabs on the immigration status of their workers.

“If we don’t have the $15 proposal as part of reconciliation, we’ll need to sit down and work on a bipartisan proposal,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “And we’re open to considering other people’s points of view.”

But many Democrats are eager to press ahead on their own without Republican votes. Sanders recently expressed confidence that the pay bump would clear the stringent reconciliation process and garner enough Democratic votes for passage.

“I think we’re going to pass it as it is,” he told reporters on Monday. “The Democrats are going to support the president of the United States and the overwhelming majority of the American people want to pass this Covid emergency bill.”

But that’s not holding back some Democrats from pitching ideas about a lower wage increase in the final legislation. Manchin told reporters on Monday evening he would try to offer an amendment to the legislation.

“I would amend it to $11,” he said. “We can do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be with $15 in five years.”

The $15 minimum wage enjoys strong public support. Over 60% of respondents in a new Insider poll published Tuesday would definitely or probably support a $15 minimum wage. 

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Republicans see Democrats’ $15 minimum wage increase and counter with $10 instead

mitt romney tom cotton
Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton at a news conference in 2014.

To counter the Democrats’ proposal of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, two Republican senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that maintained the 2025 timeline, but would instead raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by then.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2025, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was included in the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus package that passed out of the House Budget Committee on Monday. Republicans oppose the stimulus package as too large in general, but a new bill by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah signals bipartisan support for a minimum wage increase. 

Their Higher Wages for American Workers Act proposes to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2025 with a mandatory E-Verify, which would ensure that all workers who would receive the higher wages are legal.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low – that’s unfair,” Cotton said in a statement. “Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”

A summary of the bill said that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would “destroy 1.4 million jobs,” and said $10 an hour would be better for the labor market. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously said that raising the wage to $15 an hour would have minimal effects on the availability of jobs.

The government’s nonpartisan budgetkeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, has actually looked at both numbers and their potential effect on the labor market. A 2019 report found that raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour would cost 0.1 million jobs, while a recent report said $15 an hour could reduce employment by 1.4 million jobs

Other elements of Romney and Cotton’s bill include:

  • After the raise to $10, indexing the minimum wage to inflation every two years;
  • Creating a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees;
  • Raising civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized workers;
  • Providing $100 million annually in automatic funding for the E-Verify system.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he would support an $11 an hour increase, while Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has said a minimum-wage increase isn’t appropriate for reconciliation, the process Sanders wants to use for the raise to $15. 

Although President Joe Biden has reportedly expressed his own doubts on whether the $15 increase would survive in the final version of his stimulus package, he and other Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly expressed their support for doing it to lift millions of Americans out of poverty. 

“Raising the minimum wage is not just about economic justice – it is about racial justice,” Sanders said on Twitter last Wednesday. “Nearly half of Black and Latino workers in America make under $15 an hour. We must end starvation wages, and give 32 million Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

Insider’s own polling shows a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15, as reported by Juliana Kaplan.

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Joe Manchin poses a threat to raising the minimum wage, even though 250,000 West Virginians would benefit from the increase

joe manchin 20
WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill, on Monday, December 14, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Democrats are staging a final push to include minimum wage legislation in Biden’s stimulus plan.
  • But one of the party’s most conservative Senators, Joe Manchin has doubled down on his opposition.
  • 14% of workers in West Virginia, Manchin’s state, could see a raise if the legislation passes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Congressional Democrats are scrambling to keep their $15 federal minimum wage proposal included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan this week as they face an unlikely obstacle: centrist members of their own party.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, two of the party’s most moderate Democrats, have both said they are opposed to using budget reconciliation – a maneuver that allows the majority party to speed through high-priority fiscal legislation without support from the minority party – to pass the minimum wage hike.

The proposal was formerly known as the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 and would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by the year 2025. 

Progressive members of the party, like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have signaled their confidence that the legislation will be included in Biden’s first COVID-19 stimulus package, but Manchin, in particular, has doubled down on his opposition in recent days. 

Now, the former governor of West Virginia is facing criticism from constituents and activists back home who support the proposed increase.

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country

Even before COVID-19, West Virginia had the 6th highest poverty rate in the country, according to US Census Bureau data. An estimated 278,734 West Virginians – 16% of the population – lived in poverty in 2019, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Data from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that a quarter of a million West Virginians, about 14% of workers in the state, would directly benefit from a $15 minimum wage. 

Those impacted workers would take home, on average, nearly $4,000 extra dollars each year, the economic policy institute estimated. The total annual wage increase for all affected West Virginia workers would be $987 million annually. 

Manchin reaffirmed his opposition last week at a virtual meeting with West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign, a progressive group fighting for working-class residents in the state.

Though the meeting was closed to the media, attendees told reporters in an online press conference immediately afterward that Manchin “refused to budge,” according to The Guardian.

“I feel like he’s got his head in the clouds and he doesn’t understand what’s happening to poor people in West Virginia,” Brianna Griffith, a restaurant worker and rafting guide told the outlet. 

 

Manchin says he’s worried about how the increase could hurt small businesses 

West Virginia’s current minimum wage is $8.75 an hour, more than a dollar above the federal minimum wage, but still much less than the $24 that would be in place had the federal minimum wage kept up with productivity growth, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

But Manchin, along with other moderates and most conservatives, is worried that the incremental increase could end up doing more harm than help. 

A Congressional Budget Office report estimated the legislation, if passed, would increase the cumulative budget deficit by $54 billion in the next decade. Prices for goods and services would increase as a result of paying workers more and 1.4 million jobs would be lost, the report said.

But the CBO also estimates the hike would pull 900,000 workers out of poverty and pump $333 billion back into the economy.

Fight for 15 minimum wage protests
Several workers in the fight for $15 took their opposition to downtown New York’s McDonald during the lunchtime rush.

Others think the benefits of a hike would far outweigh potential negative impacts

The Economic Policy Institute conducted its own investigation into the possible outcomes of the increase and estimated that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would lift pay for nearly 32 million workers across the country – almost 21% of the US workforce. 

The raise would be particularly beneficial to people of color and women. Nearly a third of African-Americans and a quarter of Latinos would get a raise if the proposal was employed. Nearly 1 in 4 of those who directly benefited would be Black or Latino women, the study found. 

Sanders has ramped up his support for the legislation in recent days, arguing that the Congressional Budget Office’s report provided ample evidence that increasing the minimum wage would directly affect the federal budget – a requirement for any legislation passed through reconciliation. 

Lawmakers are now waiting for a final decision from the parliamentarian, the Senate’s official advisor on procedural matters, on whether or not the wage increase can be passed through reconciliation. Politico reported that Democrats and Republicans are both expected to meet with the parliamentarian Wednesday to make their separate cases and that her ruling could soon follow.

Elizabeth MacDonough has held the position of Senate parliamentarian since 2012, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appointed her to the position. She is only the sixth person to serve in the role since it was created in 1935. 

Even if MacDonough decides in favor of the Democrats, the party will still be faced with Manchin. In order to pass legislation through reconciliation, the party will need every single member plus tie-breaker Vice President Kamala Harris to vote in sync. 

Manchin has signaled he’s willing to compromise on the issue

Manchin has publicly said he would support something “responsible and reasonable” when it comes to raising the federal minimum wage and has proposed a smaller increase of $11 an hour numerous times. 

Insider reached out to Sen. Manchin for comment. 

The senator told CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju Monday evening that if the parliamentarian allows the wage hike to be passed by reconciliation, he will try to amend the legislation to $11 an hour.

“We can do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be with $15 in five years,” he told Raju. 

 

He argued the move would allow the party to compromise and successfully pass the stimulus package. But for progressive West Virginians back home, that may not be enough.

“You’re just frazzled,” Pam Garrison, a member of West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign told the Guardian after meeting with Manchin. “If you’ve never lived in poverty, you have no idea what it does to you.”  

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Bernie Sanders is ‘confident’ that the $15 minimum wage will remain in COVID-19 relief package

bernie sanders stimulus checks
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

  • Sanders expressed confidence that the minimum wage hike will remain in the COVID-19 relief package.
  • The Senate parliamentarian will determine if the wage increase can be passed through reconciliation.
  • Sanders still faces resistance from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Saturday expressed confidence that the proposed minimum wage hike to $15 per hour will remain in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that congressional Democrats are aiming to pass through the budget reconciliation process.

President Joe Biden supports the minimum wage hike but has expressed doubt that it would be permissible under reconciliation rules. But, Sanders, the independent chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, thinks the measure will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not ‘incidental’ to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation,” Sanders said in a statement to CNN. “The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] has found that the $15 minimum wage has a much greater impact on the federal budget than opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the individual mandate penalties – two provisions that the parliamentarian advised did not violate the Byrd Rule when Republicans controlled the Senate.”

He added: “I’m confident that the parliamentarian will advise next week that we can raise the minimum wage through the reconciliation process.”

The CBO has ruled that the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would have a substantial impact on the budget, which might meet the threshold of the Byrd Rule and be passed through the reconciliation process.

Sanders has insisted that reconciliation – which would rely on all 50 Democratic senators supporting the legislation – is the way to make the minimum wage increase happen.

“It’s gonna be in reconciliation if I have anything to say about it – it’s the only way we’re gonna get it passed,” he told Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig earlier this month.

But even if the parliamentarian rules in Sanders’ favor, he’ll still face resistance from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Manchin told The Hill earlier this month that he could support raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour, which he said was “responsible and reasonable.”

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process,” Sinema told Politico last week. “It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

The federal minimum wage, at $7.25 per hour, has been unchanged since July 2009.

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Here are the moderate Democrats who will have outsized influence over Biden’s agenda amid a slim majority in the Senate

senators amy klobuchar and chris coons
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

  • With a slim majority in the Senate, Biden’s agenda could often hinge on one or two Democrats. 
  • Moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are poised to have overwhelming influence in the early part of Biden’s era.
  • The debate over the filibuster has already shown why the narrow Democratic Senate majority will be a challenge.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Joe Biden has been president for over a week, and congressional Democrats haven’t considered much of his agenda yet.

Democrats have control of the Senate for the first time in six years. Georgia runoff winners Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, along with Alex Padilla, California’s former secretary of state, were sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on January 20. The ceremony finally materialized the party’s highly sought-after goal: control of the White House and Congress. 

Democrats have so far struggled to take advantage of that newfound power, dawdling somewhat in pushing legislation through. The delay has mainly stemmed from the Senate, which came to standstill because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer feuded over the filibuster.

In a nutshell, McConnell wanted Schumer to promise to preserve the legislative tactic, which essentially functions as the minority’s check on the majority by allowing endless debate on a bill, often to delay or block its passage. Sixty senators are required in order to stop debate and vote on a bill. Many progressives in the Democratic Party have recently renewed calls for eliminating the filibuster.

Schumer was obstinate in the face of McConnell’s demands on the filibuster, but the Kentucky Republican ultimately backed off after two Democratic senators vowed to uphold the tool. Those two lawmakers, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, along with several other moderate Democrats, are shaping up to have significant influence over Biden’s legislative priorities.

Besides the filibuster stalemate, the Senate has been busy confirming Biden’s Cabinet picks and is also preparing for an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump.

Biden, meanwhile, has signed dozens of executive orders, ranging from tackling the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change and racial injustice. Yet the power of the presidency can only go so far without congressional support.

Joe Biden signs executive orders
President Joe Biden signs executive orders as part of the Covid-19 response at the White House.

One area that top Democrats have pledged to quickly deliver on is another coronavirus stimulus. Dubbed the “America Rescue Plan,” Biden’s $1.9 trillion package includes $1,400 one-time direct payments, aid for state and local governments, a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans within his first 100 days in office, among other proposals. White House coronavirus advisor Andy Slavitt said this week that the Biden administration can achieve its vaccination goal without Congress, but added that the legislative body is needed to secure more funding to vaccinate all Americans.

However, Democrats are operating on slim majorities in both chambers and divided sentiment within the party, posing a challenge for Biden to implement his agenda. The president’s major hurdle lies in the Senate because of the filibuster, which if employed would require support from at least 10 Republicans for his legislation to have any shot. Democrats have tools to work around it, such as a procedure known as budget reconciliation that only requires a simple majority of 51 to pass legislation. But that can only happen if Biden is able to unite all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus, which includes two independents – Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine – to support his policy.

These are the moderate Senate Democrats who could influence much of Biden’s legislation: 

  • Joe Manchin
    • Manchin has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks after he pledged to McConnell that he would not eliminate the filibuster. The West Virginian is well known for his conservative voice in the party, hailing from one of the reddest states in the country and frequently voting with the GOP. He was the lone Democrat to vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Manchin’s stances could threaten some of Biden’s progressive ideas, especially when it comes to climate change. Manchin has also been skeptical of Biden’s stimulus proposal. He’s poised to be a major senator to watch in the Biden era.
  • Kyrsten Sinema
    • Similarly, Sinema has come on the radar in light of her support to maintain the filibuster. She is one of two Democratic senators representing Arizona, a key swing state in the 2020 elections that flipped to Biden. Yet like Manchin, she has a record of voting with the GOP, making her vote crucial under the Biden administration.
  • Chris Coons
    • Coons is one of Biden’s closest allies in the Senate and represents the president’s home state of Delaware. The senator had been considered to serve as Secretary of State, but Biden chose Anthony Blinken instead. “I need you in the Senate,” Biden told Coons in a November 16 conversation. Coons, who’s built a bipartisan reputation, is expected to wield substantial political power in Biden’s term.
  • Amy Klobuchar
    • Klobuchar is another moderate to keep an eye out for, as she’s been closely linked to Biden’s circle over the past several months. The former 2020 presidential candidate, who ran on her centrist, Midwestern background, quickly endorsed Biden after she dropped out of the race. Klobuchar was in the running to be Biden’s vice presidential pick, but withdrew her name and said the president-elect should select a woman of color instead. The Minnesota senator had also been floated to serve in Biden’s Cabinet. On Inauguration Day, Klobuchar played a key role in Biden’s ceremony and delivered the opening address
  • Jon Tester
    • Tester could become an important “yes” vote on Biden’s legislation. Like Manchin, he also comes from a red state: Montana. Yet unlike Manchin, he hasn’t voted with the GOP as much, despite Montana voting for former President Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Biden may be able to use this to his advantage and secure Tester’s support on many of his policy positions.
  • Michael Bennet
    • Though he dropped out of the race fairly early on, Bennet raised his national profile by running for president in 2020. The Colorado Democrat has garnered a reputation as a lawmaker who seeks to push ideas palatable to both parties, such as criminal justice reform, and could be a strong ally for Biden on the legislative front.
  • Mark Warner
    • As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner is in one of the most important positions in Congress. The committee oversees the US intelligence community, which the Biden administration is working to repair after four years of relentless attacks from the Trump administration. The Virginia Democrat has a long record as a centrist, and will play a key role in discussions on threats to the US, including domestic terrorism.
  • Jeanne Shaheen
  • Bob Casey
    • Casey could be an ally for Biden on most issues, but has often stood out from others in his party due to his stance on abortion. In the past, the Pennsylvania lawmaker has described himself as a “pro-life Democrat” and in 2019 was one of just two Democratic senators  – the other being Manchin – to vote for a permanent ban on federal funding for most abortions. Biden during his campaign supported ending the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding from going to most abortions, but any such effort could face opposition from Casey.
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Manchin says Senate should consider using 14th Amendment to remove Hawley and Cruz over their objections to Electoral College votes

Joe Manchin
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 05: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to the press near the Senate subway following a vote in the Senate impeachment trial that acquitted President Donald Trump of all charges on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. After the House impeached Trump last year, the Senate voted today to acquit the President on two articles of impeachment as the trial concludes.

  • Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said the Senate should consider removing his Republican colleagues, Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. 
  • Manchin said the 14th Amendment should be applied after Cruz and Hawley pushed forth with efforts to dispute Electoral College votes last week. 
  • Trump supporters stormed the Capitol during a joint session to debate the electoral results, leading to the deaths of five people. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sen. Joe Manchin said the Senate should consider using the 14th Amendment to remove Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, two Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote last week. 

“That should be a consideration,” Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said when asked if the 14th Amendment should be triggered during an interview with PBS’s “Firing Line.”

On January 6, supporters of President Donald Trump breached the US Capitol and clashed with law enforcement, halting the joint session of Congress as lawmakers were debating challenges to electoral votes.

Critics have called on the senators to resign and blamed them for the five deaths that occurred as a result of the siege on the Capitol. 

The House has since impeached Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection. The Senate will soon hold a trial and vote on whether to convict the president.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez previously said Cruz and Hawley’s support of the election challenges, which stemmed from President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, helped inspire the mob that ransacked and destroyed the Capitol. 

“Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot. Both you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

Manchin had also previously said that the senators were at fault for the violence. 

“There’s no way they cannot be complicit in this,” he said. “That they think they can walk away and say, ‘I just exercised my right as a senator?’ Especially after we came back here and after they saw what happened.”

He added: “I don’t know how you can live with yourself right now knowing that people lost their lives.”

The 14th Amendment says that no lawmaker holding office “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.” 

Many Republicans abandoned their plans to dispute the election results following the violence, but Hawley and Cruz pushed forward in an effort that would have been futile but gained them points with Trump’s base. 

Earlier this week, Democratic aides also told The Hill that some senators were also considering censuring Cruz and Hawley. While a censure wouldn’t remove them from office, it could seriously hurt their political aspirations. 

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‘I don’t know how you can live with yourself’: Joe Manchin slams Sens. Hawley and Cruz, who continued with election challenges after the Capitol riots

Hawley Cruz
GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, left, and Ted Cruz of Texas, right, speak after Republicans objected to certifying the Electoral College votes from Arizona during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2020.

  • In an interview with Politico, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia gave a pointed rebuke of GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas in the aftermath of the US Capitol riots on Jan. 6.
  • “There’s no way they cannot be complicit in this,” he said. “That they think they can walk away and say, ‘I just exercised my right as a senator?’ Especially after we came back here and after they saw what happened.”
  • Sens. Hawley and Cruz, who have long been seen as likely 2024 GOP presidential candidates, have faced a flurry of calls to resign since the riots.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In an interview with Politico, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia gave a pointed rebuke of GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas in the aftermath of the US Capitol riots on Jan. 6.

Manchin, a moderate, said that Hawley and Cruz backing President Donald Trump’s election grievances alleging voter fraud and leading the Senate GOP electoral challenge of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory will have serious consequences.

“There’s no way they cannot be complicit in this,” he said. “That they think they can walk away and say, ‘I just exercised my right as a senator?’ Especially after we came back here and after they saw what happened.”

He added: “I don’t know how you can live with yourself right now knowing that people lost their lives.”

Manchin, while in a secure area with other lawmakers during the siege in which five people died, said that he spoke with Hawley, Cruz, and Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Steve Daines of Montana to convince them to drop their electoral objections.

Lankford and Daines chose not to go through with contesting Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over Trump, “when they saw the danger of what happened,” according to Manchin.

Read more: Secret Service experts are speculating in group chats about how Trump might be hauled out of the White House if he won’t budge on Inauguration Day

Once the building was cleared of rioters, Hawley and Cruz still went through with their objections to the Arizona and Pennsylvania vote counts, which both failed.

Biden’s victory was certified early in the morning on January 7.

Sens. Hawley and Cruz, who have long been seen as likely 2024 GOP presidential candidates, have faced a flurry of calls to step down. Several of their Democratic colleagues in the upper chamber, including Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden or Oregon, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Patty Murray of Washington, have all called for both Hawley and Cruz to resign.

Republican colleagues and possible 2024 contenders including Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska declined to join in the election challenges.

Former GOP Sen. John Danforth, who represented Missouri in the Senate from 1976 to 1995 and was one of Hawley’s biggest champions in his 2018 Senate campaign, recently lamented his support as “the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”

Both Hawley and Cruz have refused to step down from their seats, but with the fallout from the riots still in the minds of every lawmaker on Capitol Hill, their effectiveness in the Senate will likely be an open question going forward.

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