Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri on Friday endorsed a Democratic plan to work around a straight raise of the minimum wage after the Senate parliamentarian shot down an across the board hourly increase to $15.
The idea, pitched by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), would use tax penalties to force large companies to raise their pay for workers.
Hawley said that he supports penalties for corporations with revenue greater than $1 billion if they don’t pay a $15 minimum wage.
“For decades, the wages of everyday, working Americans have remained stagnant while monopoly corporations have consolidated industry after industry, securing record profits for CEOs and investment bankers,” Hawley said in a statement.
“Mega-corporations can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour, and it’s long past time they do so, but this should not come at the expense of small businesses already struggling to make it.”
The Senate parliamentarian on Thursday ruled that upping the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 isn’t allowed as part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill that’s being rammed through Congress without Republican support under a budget reconciliation process that requires a majority in the Senate rather than the usual 60-vote supermajority.
The straightforward hike would have been in trouble in the evenly divided Senate anyhow because two Democrats — Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – opposed it.
The new tax penalty could be more palatable as part of the stimulus bill and would allow Democrats to avoid a long-shot future attempt to win 60 votes in the Senate.
The precise details aren’t clear, however.
Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, tweeted Friday morning, “I’m exploring a tax penalty for mega-corporations that refuse to pay a living wage. This isn’t over.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the now-dead minimum wage proposal would cost 1.4 million jobs by adding financial pressure to companies. Conservative opponents stressed the potential effects on smaller businesses.
The House is expected to pass its $1.9 trillion package sometime Friday, possibly in the late evening.