Two Republican senators made a counter-proposal to Democrats on minimum wage on Tuesday, proposing to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $ 10 an hour while forcing employers to use E-Verify to crack down on undocumented workers.
The plan presented by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) And Mitt Romney (Utah) is well below the $ 15 hourly wage that progressives in the House and Senate are pushing. Its immigration arrangements could also meet stiff resistance from Democrats and business groups.
Romney, one of the few moderate Republicans known to cross the aisle to work with Democrats, argued that the smaller pay rise would prevent job losses and that increased use of E-Verify would discourage undocumented workers to enter the United States.
“We need to create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while eliminating one of the main drivers of illegal immigration,” Romney said in a statement.
The Romney-Cotton proposal shows how distant Democrats and Republicans are on the minimum wage issue.
Democrats are trying to push through a proposal that would raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour over the next four years, without any strings, as part of their COVID-19 relief program. It would also eliminate the “tip” minimum wage that allows employers to pay waiters and other workers who receive tips a lower base wage.
Knowing that Republicans are unlikely to endorse a minimum wage of $ 15 – or any of their COVID-19 relief plan, really – Democrats have attempted to push their bill through a process legislative called budget reconciliation. This would allow them to pass their legislation with just 50 votes in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris doing the tiebreaker, but it would also potentially limit Democrats’ ability to act on minimum wage.
On the one hand, two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), have already spoken out against a minimum wage of $ 15. Manchin said he was in favor of a smaller increase, to $ 11 an hour.
The federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 an hour and has not been raised for over a decade.
But even though all 50 Democrats were on board, Senate rules require that all laws passed through budget reconciliation have a significant and direct impact on the federal budget. The parliamentarian of the Senate must decide this week whether the increase in the minimum wage is accepted.
If not, Democrats may not have much choice but to compromise on the other side and pass legislation separate from the relief bill.
Romney told reporters Tuesday that senators “will have to sit down and work on a bipartisan proposal” if the minimum wage is not passed by reconciliation, according to the Hill Press Pool.
“We are open to considering the perspectives of others. But I think the recognition that we need to raise the minimum wage and tie it to an inflator makes sense, ”Romney said. “And then I think to tie that to a system that enforces our immigration laws and prevents people from coming here illegally and taking jobs away from people at the entry level of our economy, that makes a lot of sense.
Already Democrats have said the proposal is far too short.
“While I’m glad some Republicans in Congress are finally recognizing that $ 7.25 an hour is not a living wage, an increase of $ 2.75 an hour for some workers spanning five years is not enough. not, ”said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Work and Pensions committee, said in a statement to HuffPost.
The federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 an hour and has not been raised for over a decade. While Congressional Republicans let it languish, many states have moved ahead and implemented their own increases by popular demand. This includes the home state of Cotton, Arkansas, where the wage floor last month hit $ 11 due to a 2018 voting initiative. That’s a dollar more than where Cotton’s proposal would have the federal rate in 2026.
The success of the Fight for $ 15 fast food campaign helped push a minimum wage of $ 15 into the Democratic Party platform, and something progressive in the party would be hard-pressed to walk away. The last time Democrats broadly backed a $ 10 federal salary floor was several years ago, before states like California, Connecticut, and even Florida began to adopt their own $ 15 plans. .
The AFL-CIO trade union federation was not impressed by the Republicans’ proposal.
“What an insult to the millions of people who work every day to keep this country afloat,” said John Weber, a spokesperson for the federation, in an email. “The Romney-Cotton plan is a recipe for exploitation through labor. It is designed to cut wages, keep essential workers in prolonged poverty, and deny America a raise we desperately need when we need it most.
The Romney-Cotton proposal shows some progress from Congress on the issue, by virtue of the fact that it is a proposal at all. There was little support among Republicans for any sort of raise, although Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) also proposed an increase in the minimum wage, to $ 10.10, as well as some corporate tax cuts, in 2017. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) prevented minimum wage plans from going anywhere in the upper house while he was the chief of the majority.
The success of the Fight for $ 15 fast food campaign helped bring a minimum wage of $ 15 into the Democratic Party platform.
The new proposal would tie the minimum wage to an inflation index, an idea also supported by Democrats. But Senators’ decision to link immigration policy with raising the minimum wage is sure to trouble Democrats.
Mandatory use of E-Verify has been criticized by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the practice creates “a whole new level of intrusive government oversight of daily life – a bureaucratic system” prove you are working Which harms ordinary people. ”
For Democrats, an E-Verify mandate has always been accepted as a bargaining chip with Republicans. Democrats accepted it controversially in 2013 when negotiating a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have given millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. This effort ultimately died in the House.
During the presidential primary of 2020, several candidates, including the Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), Cory Booker (DN.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Have spoken out against E-Verify. Others, like Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) And John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Have argued that this would be acceptable in a compromise. Notably, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have remained silent on the issue as the 2020 election approaches.
In this case, the question for Democrats will be whether a narrower increase in the minimum wage is trade enough to implement these immigration reforms.
Democrats like Murray balk at the idea. She called the immigration provisions “unacceptable” and “attacks on hard-working immigrant families.”
“After more than a decade since the last federal minimum wage hike, this unnecessarily partisan proposal that falls short of the $ 15 an hour that two-thirds of Americans from both parties support – is what we will continue to work, ”Murray said.
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