In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that Republicans should support raising the minimum wage.
“I, for instance, as you know, part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it,” he said. “Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.” Watch it:
Romney has voiced similar ideas in the past, saying on the campaign trail in 2012 that he thought the minimum wage should be indexed to inflation so that it automatically rises with inflation. However, he vetoed a raise in Massachusetts’s minimum wage while governor because he said it outpaced the rising cost of living and in 2012 his spokesperson later said that he didn’t think the wage should be raised at the time given the high level of joblessness.
Thursday’s comments come as other Republicans have offered tentative support for increasing the wage. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on the same show that his fellow party members “should support reasonable increases to the minimum wage” and that “it should be reasonably adjusted from time to time,” although clarified later that he doesn’t support the current Democratic push to raise it to $10.10 an hour. And a few days later, former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum agreed, pointing out that he voted for increases while in Congress and saying, “Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue-collar guy, but we are against any minimum wage increase ever. It just makes no sense.”
Santorum is right to point out that Republicans have previously voted for increases in the minimum wage. Dozens who are still serving backed hikes under President George W. Bush. But when the Senate recently voted to advance an increase to $10.10 an hour, all but one Republican blocked its advancement, and House Republicans unanimously voted down an increase last year.
If Republicans agree with Romney’s position that the minimum wage should keep up with inflation, then a $10.10 level should make sense. That’s about where it would be if it had risen with the rising cost of living since the 1960s. It would be far higher — closer to $22 an hour — if it had tracked workers’ rising productivity.
But while some Republicans are saying they should be in favor of increases, others are saying they think there shouldn’t be a federal minimum wage at all. The most recent was Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) but similar statements have come from Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), Rep. Joe Barton (TX), and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.