Mitt Romney proposes raising minimum wage to $10 an hour

Plan is a potential compromise to the $15 an hour proposed by President Biden.

(J. Scott Applewhite | AP file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pauses to answer questions from reporters after the Senate voted to consider hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Feb. 13, 2021.

Sen. Mitt Romney on Tuesday unveiled his alternative to President Joe Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — hike it instead to $10 an hour over four years, but then increase it automatically every two years to match inflation.

Also, Romney would allow a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. He would avoid increases during the current pandemic. And he would require all employers to use E-Verify to ensure that their employees are authorized to work in America.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“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 as he offered details of the plan that he and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., propose.

“Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs,” he said. “Additionally, our bill would protect American jobs by requiring employers to use E-Verify to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants. We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs.”

Cotton added, “American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low — that’s unfair. Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”

Republicans rarely push bills to raise the minimum wage, but since Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he 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 proposal is seen as a middle-ground potential compromise to Biden’s push for a $15 an hour increase in a Congress that is nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Romney and Cotton said their bill will be formally introduced probably next week.

Biden recently acknowledged that a $15 minimum wage hike would likely not pass as part of his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus plan — as he has proposed. However, he said he would include a wage increase in separate legislation.

Romney told Utah reporters earlier this month 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.

The federal poverty level is set at $12,760 for an individual, $17,240 for a couple and $21,720 for a household of three.