A $10 national minimum wage plan introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah has been criticized by Democratic legislators and others for being lower than Arkansas’ statewide minimum wage of $11 an hour.
The GOP plan, entitled the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour by 2025. The plan would also require employers to phase in the use of the federal E-Verify system to ensure that only documented laborers, and not undocumented immigrants, are hired. Lastly, the plan would provide stiffer penalties to employers who hire undocumented workers.
Various media and political figures are criticizing the plan because it offers a lower minimum wage than that of Cotton’s home state, $11 per hour.
Democratic Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib wrote, “I offer any of my colleagues to tour my district. It’s the 3rd poorest in the nation. The minimum wage in MI is just below $10. Incrementally increasing a pitiful 7.25 wage to $10 over 5 yrs is a cruel joke. Poverty cannot be overcome just by $2.75/hour more. Liveable wage now.”
Business journalist and author Daniel Gross wrote that the GOP plan also pays less than other states and large nationwide businesses.
“this is strange. In california, where 40 million American lives, the minimum wage is $14. In New York, population 20 million, it’s $15 walmart has a $11/hour starting wage. and so on,” Gross wrote.
As of February 23, there are 20 U.S. states with minimum wages over $10 an hour.
TV producer and creator of The Good Place, Michael Schur, wrote, “Mitt Romney has a new plan to increase the federal minimum wage to $10/hr by 2025. Before you complain that $400/wk doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s almost as much as Mitt and his friends are holding in their mouths as a goof in this Bain Capital promo photo from 35 years ago!”
The tweet contained an image of Romney and others biting down on dollar bills, with additional bills sticking out of various places on their suits.
Democratic New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote of the plan, “When members of Congress fight to set the minimum wage below a living wage, they are playing a role in creating and preserving poverty in the United States. The $15/hr proposal with multi-year phase in is already a deep compromise. $10 an hour is legislated poverty.”
However, some progressive Democrats have opposed the wage increase, believing that it should be more than $15 an hour. As proof, they’ve cited studies that show only a handful of states have one-bedroom apartments affordable to those working 40 hours on a $15 an hour wage.
It remains uncertain if Senate Democrats will support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. When Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation for an identical wage hike in January 2021, only 37 members of the 50-person Senate Democratic caucus co-sponsored it.
Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who didn’t co-sponsor Sanders’ bill, said that he wouldn’t assist in passing the measure without Republican support. His statement potentially scuttles Democratic hopes of passing the measure through a procedural maneuver called budget reconciliation. The maneuver would bypass the need for Republican support but would also require all Democratic and both Independent senators—Sanders and Angus King of Maine—to vote unanimously for it.
Democratic Delaware Senator Tom Carper, who also didn’t co-sponsor Sanders’ bill, has voiced his own hesitancy. He worries that a minimum wage increase would put an additional financial strain on businesses already harmed by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
Newsweek contacted Cotton for comment.