Republican Senator Mitt Romney and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema are teaming up on a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage, which has not been increased since 2009. Romney told reporters Wednesday that he and Sinema are working on a plan which they will present to a bipartisan group of 20 centrist senators.
"We're negotiating a minimum wage proposal which we would ultimately take to our group of 20 and see how they react to it and then go from there," Romney said. "We've pretty much come to the meeting of the minds among ourselves, meaning Senator Sinema and myself, but there are many other people who want to be part of that discussion."
Romney did not provide details about the timeline for the wage hike or what the new minimum wage would be, although Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters on Wednesday that he believed the measure would raise the wage to $11 per hour. The tentative proposal by Romney and Sinema was first reported by HuffPost. A spokesperson for Romney confirmed that the senator is holding discussions on raising the minimum wage.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and has not been raised in over a decade. Congressional Democrats attempted to include a provision raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 when voting on President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Although this provision was approved in the House, it was excised from the bill in the Senate. The provision also would have raised the tipped minimum wage, which is $2.13.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage provision could not be included in the final bill under budget reconciliation rules. Congressional Democrats used budget reconciliation to pass the bill because it allowed the measure to be approved without any Republican votes, but the process has strict rules.
Even if the minimum wage hike had been included in the final version of the American Rescue Plan, several Democrats, including Sinema, Manchin and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, had raised concerns about hiking it by such a significant amount. Manchin has repeatedly said that he would prefer raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour.
Despite the ruling of the parliamentarian, Senator Bernie Sanders attempted to include an amendment to the American Rescue Plan raising the minimum wage to $15, but it failed by a vote of 58 to 42, with seven Democrats and one independent siding with all Republicans in defeating the measure.
Romney and Republican Senator Tom Cotton introduced a bill in March which would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour over five years. The bill would have tied the minimum wage hike to mandating that businesses use E-Verify to confirm the immigration status of workers, and would not have changed the tipped minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Sanders has said that he will not give up on his fight to raise the minimum wage to $15. He said in an interview with CNN in March that "we are developing a strategy" to pass the wage hike, and said "we are going to pass that bill."
"We are going to do what the American people want, and in one way or another we are going to pass the $15 an hour minimum wage," Sanders said.