Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

'Sounds Like a Passing Grade': CBO Says $15 Wage Would Have Bigger Budget Impact Than GOP Tax Cut Provisions

"I'm gonna fight as hard as I can, and I believe that we will succeed in including the minimum wage in the reconciliation bill," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would have a significantly broader budgetary impact than two provisions of the 2017 Republican tax cut legislation that passed through reconciliation, a finding that provides another boost to Sen. Bernie Sanders' effort to include the pay increase in the Senate coronavirus relief package.

In response to a request by Sanders—the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee—for a comparison of the budgetary effect of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 with that of the GOP tax bill's zeroing out of Obamacare's individual mandate penalty and the measure's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) drilling provision, the CBO found that the $15 minimum wage legislation would have a more sweeping impact.

"It is popular, it is what the people want, it is what justice demands."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"The analysis of the Raise the Wage Act encompasses a much broader range of behavioral effects than that of the 2017 tax act, and the increased minimum wage would in turn affect a broader range of budget functions than CBO estimated that the change in the mandate penalty would," the budget office noted in a letter (pdf) to Sanders. "Increasing the minimum wage would affect more budget functions than CBO estimated that the ANWR provisions would."

Under the Senate's so-called Byrd Rule, each provision of a reconciliation bill must have a direct—not "merely incidental"—impact on the federal spending and revenue. The CBO's latest analysis—which comes a week after the budget office found the wage hike would add $54 billion to the deficit over ten years—was viewed as additional confirmation that the wage increase should qualify under reconciliation.

"Sounds like a passing grade to me, folks," said Elizabeth Pancotti, policy director at Employ America, in response to the CBO analysis.

Warren Gunnels, Sanders' staff director, also welcomed the CBO's new findings in a tweet late Monday.

"Raising the minimum wage to $15 would have a much bigger impact on the federal budget than oil drilling in the Arctic and the repeal of individual mandate penalties," Gunnels noted. "Both of those provisions were deemed permissible under reconciliation. Let's go."

The CBO analysis came as Sanders is working to make the case to the Senate parliamentarian—and to skeptical Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—that the Raise the Wage Act complies with reconciliation rules and thus can and must be included in the Senate's coronavirus relief package.

In an appearance on CNN late Monday, Sanders said he "absolutely" believes that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour is "consistent with the rules of the Senate and the reconciliation process," a procedural tool Democrats are using to pass a coronavirus relief package without the support of obstructionist Republicans.

"When you have half of the people in this country living paycheck to paycheck, and all over this country you're having workers trying to survive on $9 or $10 an hour or even less than that—the American people...Republicans, Democrats, Independents want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour," said Sanders.

"It is popular, it is what the people want, it is what justice demands," the Vermont senator added. "So I'm gonna fight as hard as I can, and I believe that we will succeed in including the minimum wage in the reconciliation bill."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

As Other States Try to Copy Texas, SCOTUS Asked to Find Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

The request from healthcare providers comes after a Florida Republican filed a copycat bill and advocacy groups called on Congress to affirm the right to abortion nationwide.

Jessica Corbett ·


As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail, US Military Spending Slammed as 'Height of Absurdity'

"Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame."

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is Big': House Passes Amendment to Cut US Complicity in Saudi Bombing of Yemen

The vote, said Rep. Ro Khanna, "sent a clear message to the Saudis: end the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade."

Andrea Germanos ·


Praised for 'Braving the Smears,' Tlaib Votes Against $1 Billion in Military Aid to Israel

One rights group thanked Tlaib "for speaking truth to power" while being attacked "for simply insisting that Palestinians are human beings who deserve safety, security, and freedom from Israeli apartheid."

Brett Wilkins ·


'A Choice Point for Humanity': Women Demand Visionary Shift at UN Climate Talks

"This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo