Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is about to do something rare for a Republican — introduce a bill to raise the federal minimum wage.
But the details won’t come until next week, including how it will compare to the $15 an hour minimum now pushed by President Joe Biden. However, Romney recently told Utah reporters that he would favor perhaps raising it to $10 an hour, up from $7.25, and set it to rise automatically with inflation after that.
“Millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. I’m introducing a bill with @SenTomCotton that would increase the minimum wage while ensuring businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants,” Romney tweeted on Tuesday. “We must protect American workers.”
The Utah Republican added that Congress hasn’t raised the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for more than a decade, which he said is leaving many Americans behind.
“Our proposal gradually raises the minimum wage without costing jobs, setting it to increase automatically with inflation, and requires employers to verify the legal status of workers,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Cotton — widely seen as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2024 — also tweeted that their proposal “will go into effect after the pandemic has ended and include protections for small businesses.”
Since he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney has favored changing the law to allow the minimum wage to rise automatically with inflation. In 2012, it was one of the issues that set him apart from other Republican presidential candidates when he won that party’s nomination.
Also in 2016, Romney made national headlines by saying that Republicans are “nuts not to raise the minimum wage.”
Romney’s office said the senator plans to introduce the bill next week and will release details then, including how much he wants it to rise.
However, he may have already given an inadvertent preview when he talked to Utah reporters earlier this month after he met with Biden to discuss differing proposals by Democrats and Republicans for COVID-19 relief packages.
He was asked then what he thought about Biden’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“My own view is that we should increase the minimum wage, and the number could be $10 an hour. It could be something in that nature,” he said.
Romney said he would then like to see automatic increases tied to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index “so that it moves on a predictable basis year by year, so the small and large businesses are able to have a better sense of what their future costs might be and plan for them.”
He said that Biden’s proposal to jump from $7.25 to $15 an hour “is such an enormous leap that it would cause a lot of small businesses to be just crushed and people could lose their jobs.”
Romney also said congressional research estimated “that there would be well over a million jobs lost with a change of an abrupt nature like that. So I’m not in favor of the $15 wage being immediately applied, but I do think we should raise the minimum wage and link it to inflation.”
A Congressional Budget Office report from 2019 said 17 million Americans could see an increase in income from a minimum wage of $15 and another 10 million might see some increase while an estimated 1.3 million would lose their jobs.