- The Washington Times
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah on Tuesday released new details of their plan to increase the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour and prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants in the process.

The Republican senators’ plan would increase the wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 within five years and then index it to inflation.

Mr. Romney said the plan could serve as a potential compromise as Democrats push for a hike to $15 an hour.

But he also said Democrats don’t appear interested in negotiating changes to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that’s making its way through Congress.

The increase in the senators’ plan would not happen until after the COVID-19 crisis passes. There would be a more gradual phase-in for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

The plan would require all employers to use the E-Verify system, which includes an 18-month phase-in period. E-Verify is currently a voluntary system to check employees’ immigration status.

“Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans,” Mr. Cotton said. “Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”

The plan also increases penalties on companies that hire illegal immigrants and requires workers 18 and older to provide their employer a photo ID.

The new framework comes as congressional Democrats push to include a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of the broader $1.9 trillion package.

Mr. Romney said neither the White House nor Democratic leadership in Congress appears interested in negotiating potential changes to the broader plan. 

“We’re open to considering other people’s points of view,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Democrats’ minimum wage plan would pass muster with Senate rules — or if Democrats even have the votes to muscle it through the 50-50 split Senate.

Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said a hike to $15 per hour shouldn’t be included under the fast-track process known as reconciliation that Democrats are using to thwart a possible filibuster.

“If we don’t have the $15 proposal as part of reconciliation, we’ll need to sit down and work out a bipartisan proposal,” Mr. Romney said.

Mr. Manchin said this week he could support an increase to $11 per hour, which liberal Democrats are likely to reject.

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