GOP Sens. Cotton, Romney pitch bill to raise federal minimum wage, protect jobs for legal workers

US Politics

FILE – In this Sept. 24, 2020 file photo, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., listens during the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing in Washington. Six years after being elected in an expensive and heated race, Sen. Cotton is on the ballot again in Arkansas and campaigning hard — just not in his home state. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON D.C. (ABC4) – Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is joining Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas in announcing plans to introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and protect jobs for legal workers.

A Tuesday release says the Higher Wages for American Workers Act would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 and mandate E-Verify to ensure wage increase only goes to legal workers.

The bill would also index future minimum wage increases to inflation and includes protections for small businesses, who many worry would suffer if minimum wage increased too sharply.

“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,” Senator Romney says. “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. Additionally, our bill would protect American jobs by requiring employers to use E-Verify to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants. We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”

A summary of the bill, shared by Sen. Romney’s office, says it “protects the job market for American workers by ending illegal, black-market labor; prevents massive job losses, unlike the $15 minimum wage proposal; helps teenagers find their first jobs.”

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low—that’s unfair,” Senator Cotton says.“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 summary says the bill would mandate E-Verify for all employers and phases in implementation over 18 months to allow small businesses additional time to comply. It also reaises civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized aliens and/or violate I-9 paperwork requirements.

According to the senators, the bill would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 by 2025 and then indexes it to inflation every two years. Further, it “prevents any increase during the Covid-19 emergency.”

You can see a summary of the Higher Wages for American Workers Act here.

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