Two Republican senators have joined Democrats to call for a minimum wage increase to $15. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he, along with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), will introduce a bill that will authorize a gradual increase to the $15 minimum wage and ensure that illegal immigrants can’t be hired for the same jobs.
“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. We must protect American workers,” Romney wrote on Twitter.
“Congress hasn’t raised the minimum wage in more than a decade, leaving many Americans behind,” he said. “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.”
Romney may be alluding to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released this month that shows an increased budget deficit of $54 billion if the minimum wage is increased to $15 nationally, resulting in a loss of millions of jobs, and higher prices for goods and services.
The report states: “If enacted at the end of March 2021, the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would raise the federal minimum wage, in annual increments, to $15 per hour by June 2025 and then adjust it to increase at the same rate as median hourly wages. … The cumulative budget deficit over the 2021–2031 period would increase by $54 billion.”
“Today, Americans have to compete against millions of illegal immigrants who take illegally low wages under the table. We can fix this by requiring employers to verify the legal status of every worker so they can’t undercut Americans on the black market,” Cotton wrote on Twitter. “This minimum-wage increase will go into effect after the pandemic has ended and include protections for small businesses.
“We have an obligation to protect our workers and fellow citizens. This common-sense proposal will give millions of Americans the raise they deserve.”
Calls for a $15 minimum wage have grown as President Joe Biden took office in January amid an economic crisis brought on by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, as increasing the minimum wage had been one of Biden’s campaign promises.
Biden recently said the minimum wage increase likely wouldn’t have the votes to pass as part of his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. “I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS News.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, has been one of the most consistent voices for raising the minimum wage.
“A $15 minimum wage is not a radical idea,” Sanders wrote on Twitter on Feb. 14. “What’s radical is the fact that millions of Americans are forced to work for starvation wages, while 650 billionaires became over $1 trillion richer during a global pandemic. Yes. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”
Most Republicans, however, are concerned that small businesses can’t survive or will be forced to lay off employees if the minimum-wage legislation is passed.
The Republican National Committee recently voiced concern about a “one-size-fits-all” wage increase, citing the CBO report’s assessment that the increase would cost 1.4 million jobs.
Conservative groups such as Job Creators Network (JCN) have criticized Democrats for putting their political goals before the nation’s 30 million small businesses.
They urge Biden to focus on policies that boost economic growth instead of raising the minimum wage. The pro-growth policies of the Trump administration lifted 6.6 million people out of poverty between 2017 and 2019, according to “The Economic Report of the President” released in January.
“The economic facts are clear: A $15 minimum wage would be a job and small-business killer at the worst possible time as the economy remains stuck in first gear,” Alfredo Ortiz, JCN’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a nationwide strike was organized on Feb. 16 by Fight For 15, an organization that started in 2012 with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs in New York City. According to the organization, it’s now an international group, in more than 300 cities, on six continents.
Progressive Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) praised the Fight For 15 movement, saying she will continue to fight alongside them.
“I stand in solidarity with the fast-food and care workers all across America who are striking today for 15 minimum wage. It’s past time for the minimum wage to be a livable wage,” she wrote on Twitter.
Emal Akan contributed to this report.