- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2021

The Congressional Budget Office has given a boost to Sen. Bernard Sanders’ push to use the budget process to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with a new analysis Monday showing the move would have significant effects throughout the federal fiscal picture.

CBO said changing the minimum wage would affect health care spending, unemployment benefits, Social Security, tax revenue and other parts of the budget.

That matters because the ability of Democrats to include a wage hike in the budget depends on a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, which turns in part on whether an issue is budgetary or not. Using the budget allows Democrats to circumvent a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

A number of Republicans have said a wage hike isn’t centrally about the budget, so it cannot be tacked on to the budget coronavirus package Congress is writing.

But CBO Director Phillip L. Swagel said in a letter to Mr. Sanders that a wage hike affects “a broader range of budget functions” than some things the GOP has pushed through the budget process in years past, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up for oil exploration or zeroing out the Obamacare penalty in the 2017 tax cuts.

Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent who serves as Democrats’ chair on the Senate Budget Committee, is trying to shepherd President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus package through the chamber, and he has been insistent that the $15 minimum wage be part of the final product.

A bigger hurdle than the parliamentarian, though, is opposition from within the ranks of his own party, with several Democrats saying a $15-an-hour wage is too high and will sap the economy of jobs.

Indeed, CBO says in 2025, when the hike would be fully phased in, there would be 1.4 million fewer jobs, though 900,000 people who did get raises would be lifted above the poverty line.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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