Romney, Cotton propose $10 minimum wage plan
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday rolled out proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour over four years and tighten enforcement on hiring undocumented workers.
“For millions of Americans, the rising cost of living has made it harder to make ends meet, but the federal minimum wage has not been increased in more than 10 years,” Romney said.
The bill is a counterpoint to Democrats who are pushing to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
Critics of the Democratic bill say the quick increase, which would over double the current $7.25 minimum in just four years, would burden small businesses. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report of the plan estimated it would lead to 1.4 million fewer jobs, but also lift 0.9 million people out of poverty.
But the CBO model also finds that setting the goal to $10 would leave both employment levels and poverty levels virtually unchanged.
The Democratic plan, which is included in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill advancing through Congress, faces significant hurdles.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he believes an $11 minimum would be more appropriate for his state, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) objected to including the minimum wage hike in the COVID-19 relief bill.
Democrats cannot lose a single Democratic vote if they are to approve the bill in the 50-50 Senate, where Vice President Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote.
The minimum wage hike also faces procedural hurdles in the budget reconciliation process.
The Romney-Cotton plan, which would also delay increasing the minimum wage until after the pandemic ends, would mandate that all employers use “e-verify” to ensure they do not hire undocumented workers, and raise penalties on those who violate those requirements.
“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low — that’s unfair,” Cotton said.
“Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans,” he added. “Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”
Many of those policies will be non-starters for Democrats outside the context of a comprehensive immigration bill.
But the bill also demonstrates some common ground that could pave the way for a bipartisan compromise.
It concedes the frequent Democratic talking point that the minimum wage needs to increase for the first time since 2009, and agrees to a model of linking the minimum wage to inflation after an initial ramping-up period.
The move also pairs two GOP senators who have frequently been on opposite sides of hot-button issues within their party. Most notably, Romney was among the seven GOP senators who voted to convict former President Trump at his second impeachment, while Cotton voted for his acquittal.
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