Former GOP Leaders Pushing Hard For Minimum Wage Increase

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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Last week’s vote by Senate Republicans to kill a bill raising the federal minimum wage seemed to arouse the ire of the party’s establishment wing, with three former GOP leaders all publicly pushing a minimum wage increase since then.

On Friday morning, former Massachusetts Republican governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he supports a bill raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour — the same bill unanimously voted down by House Republicans in March and scuttled by Senate Republicans in late April.

“I part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage,” he said. “I think we ought to raise it. Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay. And I think communicating that is important to us.”

“I also believe the key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population — particularly in the Hispanic community — that our party will help them get better jobs and wages. And that’s what our party’s beliefs do.”

Romney was merely the most recent of the party’s erstwhile commanders to buck the GOP’s current leadership. Last week former Minnesota governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty was the first to express his doubts over Republicans’ refusal to back the wage hike.

“For all the Republicans that come on and talk about, you know, ‘We’re for the blue-collar worker, we’re for the working person,’ there’s some basic things that we should be for,” Pawlenty said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last Wednesday, as the Senate prepared to take up the bill. “One of them is reasonable increases from time to time in the minimum wage.”

Former Republican senator and presidential candidate (sensing a pattern?) Rick Santorum joined the chorus on Monday. “I voted for [minimum wage increases] when I was in Congress,” he told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. “I authored one of the minimum wage alternatives.”

“I don’t understand — look, this is one I don’t get,” Santorum claimed. “If the Republicans want to go out and say we’re against the minimum wage, then go out and make the argument to the American public, the 80-something percent of the American public who believe we should have a minimum wage.”



The difference between the minimum wage policy peddled by these former Republican stars and the GOP’s current stance on this issue is striking. Both rank-and-file “Tea Party” Republicans and their “establishment” leaders oppose a minimum wage increase.

“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” House Speaker John Boehner said in February. “At a time when the American people are still asking the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?”

And in the same month, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also dismissed the idea outright. “We need to be creating jobs, not looking for ways to destroy them,” he said.

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