Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on February 26, 2021.

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on February 26, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

'It Should Be Easier to Raise Minimum Wage Than to Drop Bombs on Syria': Progressives Fume at Biden

"We assassinate people by drone strike and have a literal prison colony in Guantanamo but where we draw the line is ignoring the Senate parliamentarian when [she] says no to a minimum wage hike."

Jake Johnson

The contrast between the procedural difficulty of pushing a modest pay increase for millions of workers through the Senate and the relative ease with which President Joe Biden—without congressional approval—launched a deadly bombing campaign in Syria late Thursday was the subject of much discussion and outrage as the president's lethal operation overseas coincided almost simultaneously with the Senate parliamentarian's advisory ruling against a popular $15 minimum wage measure.

The two events, according to progressive critics and political commentators, spotlighted how existing institutional constraints are heavily biased against the advancement of working-class interests but do little to prevent the commander-in-chief from unilaterally bombing foreign nations on the basis of highly dubious-to-nonexistent legal authority.

"Can't get Americans their relief checks in the midst of a historic pandemic for which the nation’s economy was effectively shut down, but bombing Syria some more is a first 100 days priority. Unbelievable."
—Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times

"Personally I think it should be easier to raise the minimum wage than to drop bombs on Syria," tweeted The New Republic's Kate Aronoff.

Pointing to the Senate's legislative filibuster as a key obstacle in the way of even minor policy changes, Matt Yglesias of the Slow Boring newsletter wrote sardonically on Thursday that "the genius of America is you need a 60-vote supermajority to raise the minimum wage, but the president can bomb some militia in Iran based on ... I dunno ... an AUMF from two decades ago that was about something else entirely or something."

While Biden had no issue bypassing congressional oversight to launch an attack on border-crossing station in eastern Syria, the White House suggested late Thursday that having Vice President Kamala Harris overrule the non-binding opinion of the Senate parliamentarian—an unelected official with no constitutional authority—would be a bridge too far, despite the fact that the Constitution empowers her to do so.

Biden "respects the parliamentarian's decision and the Senate's process," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"We assassinate people by drone strike and have a literal prison colony in Guantanamo but where we draw the line is ignoring the Senate parliamentarian when [she] says no to a minimum wage hike," tweeted The Intercept's Ken Klippenstein.

After lamenting the highly undemocratic nature of a system in which "some unheard of parliamentarian ends up deciding whether or not a law gets passed to give millions a raise," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted Friday morning that "we cannot stand up for congressional authorization before military strikes only when there is a Republican president."

"The administration should have sought congressional authorization here," said Khanna. "We need to work to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate."


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

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo