Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton say it’s time to raise the federal minimum wage after more than a decade of congressional inaction.
The Republican senators’ proposal would raise the minimum wage to $10 while imposing e-verify requirements ensuring the increase will only go to legal workers.
Cotton said the wage hike will end the “black market for illegal labor” and “open up jobs for Americans” in a Tuesday press statement.
“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low. That’s unfair,” he said.
MITT ROMNEY AND TOM COTTON JUST ABANDONED FISCAL CONSERVATISM
Romney alluded to the intent to decrease illegal labor while also dismissing some Republicans’ concerns that higher wages could result in job losses.
“Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs and increase the federal minimum wage to $10, automatically raising it every two years to match the rate of inflation. Additionally, our bill would protect American jobs by requiring employers to use E-Verify to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants,” he said. “We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”
Romney’s and Cotton’s proposal calls for raising the minimum wage to $10 by 2025, after which, it will be indexed for inflation every two years. Other provisions include slower phase-ins for businesses with fewer than 20 employees and increased civil and criminal penalties for employers that violate immigration paperwork requirements.
The $10 proposal is lower than the current $11 minimum wage in Cotton’s home state of Arkansas.
The plan has earned criticism from both the Right and Left. Many Democratic leaders argue that the proposal doesn’t go far enough, reiterating calls for a $15 minimum wage.
“We can’t compromise on this,” Rep. Cori Bush wrote on Twitter. “We need to pass a $15 minimum wage immediately — and then we need to raise it again.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib called the $10 suggestion a “cruel joke.”
“Poverty cannot be overcome just by $2.75/hour more,” she tweeted, alluding to the $2.75 separating the current $7.25 minimum wage and the $10 proposal. “Liveable wage now.”
Some Republicans cited different concerns, arguing that a rise in the minimum wage would be harmful for small businesses.
“The biggest corporations in America can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour,” Sen. Josh Hawley wrote. “Raise the minimum wage for big business, not small business.”
Some Democrats have agreed a $15 across-the-board hike would be unfeasible, with centrist Sen. Joe Manchin arguing that the rate, which is included in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, is too rich for his constituents in West Virginia.
Biden himself acknowledged that the $15 minimum wage provision is controversial, saying he doesn’t think it’ll appear in the final piece of legislation.
“I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” he told CBS News, promising “a separate negotiation” on the minimum wage if the measure isn’t included in the final draft.