Utah’s Mitt Romney, Arizona Democrat to pitch bipartisan boost to minimum wage

Beehive State Republican, working with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, will take their plan to the “Gang of 20″ on Wednesday.

(Stefani Reynolds | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, enters a Senate Republican Policy luncheon at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Romney and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have reached a compromise plan to boost the minimum wage.

Sens. Mitt Romney and Kyrsten Sinema will pitch their bipartisan minimum wage plan to a key group of centrist senators Wednesday, offering the most likely path toward raising the pay floor for the first time since 2009.

Romney, R-Utah, wouldn’t say what the initial boost in the minimum wage would be, but in an interview Tuesday with The Salt Lake Tribune said that he and Sinema, D-Ariz., have worked out the details, and “it’s fair to say it’s been the Democrat plan and the Republican plan.”

Right now, the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Some states and cities have passed their own laws to increase it. Utah has remained at the national rate.

Romney previously has pushed a bill with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that would raise the minimum wage to $10. Democrats have rallied around $15 as the ultimate goal, though they dropped that push from in the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed earlier this year.

The Romney-Sinema plan would come in between those figures, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., previously saying he thought it would be $11.

“The expectation is that it would reach a certain level over a certain number of years and then thereafter it would be indexed to inflation,” said Romney, not wanting to give the details before talking to his colleagues Wednesday in their closed-door lunch.

Romney and Sinema are members of the “Gang of 20,” which includes 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats exploring areas of potential collaboration. They meet every few weeks. Members of the group are negotiating with President Joe Biden on an infrastructure deal, while others are exploring immigration. Romney and Sinema were tasked with exploring a minimum wage hike, something the Utah senator has long supported.

Some have speculated that their agreement would mirror Arizona’s minimum wage law. A proposition passed in 2016 incrementally raised the minimum wage there to $12 by 2020 and then indexed it to inflation, so on Jan. 1, 2021, it rose to $12.15.

Romney said Tuesday, “I don’t know much about Arizona’s,” adding there was some conversation about adopting a different level for workers with disabilities that came from that state, but he said it isn’t in their plans.

The senator cautioned that pitching their proposal to the Gang of 20 is the first step in a long road to boosting the minimum wage. It would need the support of 10 Republicans, to get to the 60-vote threshold to avoid a Senate filibuster.

“Our process is extraordinarily slow. And so something of this nature would take a good deal of time to become law,” Romney said. “You know, I could say that I think there are some of my Democrat colleagues who feel ‘Give us $15 or nothing. We’d rather have no loaf of bread than a half a loaf of bread.’ There’s some of my Republican colleagues who say I’m not for any increase in the minimum wage. So finding 60 votes will be a real challenge.”