Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton introduced a plan on Tuesday to increase the national minimum wage to $10 an hour over four years.
The Republican senators’ proposed legislation counters Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15.
Democratic lawmakers have pushed to include the minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package, but Republicans have objected, arguing that it would lead to greater unemployment and hurt small businesses.
“For millions of Americans, the rising cost of living has made it harder to make ends meet, but the federal minimum wage has not been increased in more than ten years,” Romney said in a statement.
“Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs and increase the federal minimum wage to $10, automatically raising it every two years to match the rate of inflation.”
Cotton said the proposed bill would protect American workers from losing their jobs.
“Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both,” he said.
The bill stipulates a more gradual minimum wage increase for businesses with fewer than 20 employees and would freeze wage increases altogether during the pandemic.
It also would increase penalties on companies that hire unauthorized workers and require all workers 18 and older to provide photo ID when hired.
A recent Congressional Budget Office report found that while a $15 minimum wage could lift 900,000 people out of poverty, it could also cost 1.4 million jobs.
A $10 minimum wage would have minimal impacts on employment and poverty levels, according to the report.
It remains unclear whether the $15 minimum wage in Biden’s aid package would be able to get through Congress.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have already said they would not support the measure.
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