Mitt Romney and another Republican U.S. senator have introduced an alternative to the $15 an hour minimum wage proposal currently being advanced by Democrats.
On Tuesday, Romney and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, unveiled details of the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour and mandate a verification process to ensure the proposed wage increase only goes to legal workers.
The bill would also include future increases to the minimum wage, scheduled every two years to keep up with inflation, and includes protections for small businesses like a slower phase-in process for companies with fewer than 20 employees.
As part of the legislation, legal employment status would be confirmed through E-Verify, a web-based federal government system that allows employers to confirm the eligibility of prospective workers by electronically matching information provided by employees against records available to the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Romney measure would mandate all employers use the E-Verify system and would raise civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized workers. The measure would also require workers 18 and older to provide a photo ID to their employer for verification and authorizes the DHS to create a program to block or suspend misused Social Security numbers.
The bill is a direct counter to a plan that calls for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 per hour. According to The Associated Press, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package includes a plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.25, where its stood since 2009. The AP says that proposal calls for gradual increases that would reach $15 over five years, but even Biden himself has said the measure likely won’t survive the final cut.
Romney said his legislation would “raise the floor for workers without costing jobs.” In a summary of the bill provided by Romney’s press office, the two senators say a $15 per hour minimum wage would “destroy” up to 1.4 million jobs.
“We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs,” Romney said in a statement. “While also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”
There is some heavy debate about what the $15 per hour minimum wage would do to the labor market. A report released by the Congressional Budget Office supports the claim made in the Romney bill, saying that by the time the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour, employment would be reduced by 1.4 million workers, or 0.9%. On the flip side, the report also notes the wage adjustment would decrease the number of Americans living in poverty by nearly 1 million.
Biden-appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the bump to $15 would have minimal impacts on job numbers.