Romney, Cotton To Propose $10 Minimum Wage With Mandatory E-Verify
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) departs following a vote in the subway of the U.S. Capitol on February 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate held confirmation hearings today for multiple Biden administration nominees as well as a hearing regarding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Al Drago/Getty Images

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) will soon introduce legislation that would begin to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. 

The legislation, which has not yet been released, would gradually increase the federal minimum wage over a period of four years beginning next year and then index the minimum wage to inflation, according to a joint statement the senators released Tuesday. 

“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,” said Romney. “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.”

Under the proposal, businesses with fewer than 20 employees would increase their wages at a slower rate than other businesses. During the same period of time, the youth minimum wage would increase to $6 per hour, from $4.25 per hour. The proposal would also prevent a federal wage increase from going into effect during the COVID-19 emergency.

A second component of the legislation would make use of E-Verify to curb the number of employers providing jobs to illegal immigrants. This component would “preserve American jobs for legal workers and remove incentives for increased illegal immigration,” according to a proposal summary released by the Utah senator’s office. “We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration,” said Romney. 

The proposal summary further states:

The Higher Wages for American Workers Act would support a strong labor market for American workers by gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $10 and mandating E-Verify to ensure rising wages go to legally authorized workers. Rather than destroy 1.4 million jobs like a $15 minimum wage, this proposal would raise wages for 3.5 million workers without harming the very workers it’s intended to protect.

In addition to the E-Verify requirement, the legislation would set aside $100 million in automatic funding to ensure E-Verify remains active in the event of a government shut-down. The proposal would also increase penalties, both civil and criminal, to employers who “hire unauthorized aliens and/or violate I-9 paperwork requirements,” according to the proposal summary.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low — that’s unfair,” said Cotton in a statement. “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.”

The proposal comes amidst reports that President Joe Biden has been privately telling Democratic officials that his idea of increasing the minimum wage to $15 through a COVID-19 relief bill no longer has a chance.

“I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told a group of elected Democratic governors and mayors last week, reports Politico, which cited a person in the room. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.”

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