Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney today joined the small but growing chorus of Republican voices calling for a reasonable increase in the minimum wage, saying he “part(s) company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it.”
“Frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay and I think communicating that is important,” he said today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”The key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population, particularly the Hispanic community, that our party will help them get better jobs and better wages.”
Romney, who in 2012 was lambasted for his 47 percent comment, is not the first 2012 Republican hopeful to speak out against the GOP’s resistance to raising the minimum wage. His former opponent, Rick Santorum, also criticized conservative lawmakers’ refusal to pass a hike.
“This is one I don’t get,” Santorum said earlier this week. “Let’s not make this argument that, you know, we’re for the blue collar guy but we’re against any minimum wage increase, ever. It just makes no sense.”
Santorum advocated that the minimum wage should cover at least 7 percent of workers – 5 percent more than the 2 percent it covers currently.
“We should try to keep it in the 7 percent range, whatever gets you to 7 percent,” he said, noting that historically, the minimum wage has covered 7 to 9 percent of the nation’s working population.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also called on his conservative colleagues to consider an increase, suggesting their ardent opposition damages the party brand.
“The Republicans should support reasonable increase in the minimum wage,” he said on “Morning Joe.” “If you’re going to talk the talk about being for the middle class and the working person, if we have a minimum wage, it should be reasonably adjusted from time to time.”
But so far, conservatives on the Hill haven’t been exactly open to the idea of a hike.
(Of course, it’s harder to support measures that are unpopular within your party when you face reelection — and unlike Romney, most congressional lawmakers have future campaigns to consider.)
All but one Republican senator voted against a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 late last month, and a $10.10 proposal is all but guaranteed to fail in the Republican-controlled House.
Conservatives, citing a recent CBO study, argue that increasing the minimum wage to the $10.10 rate Obama endorsed would cost the nation 500,000 jobs.
A raise would “shut the employment door on the very individuals they’re trying to help,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
Republican governors, too, are reluctant, and sometimes downright hostile, toward an increase.
The very idea of a hike made Florida Gov. Rick Scott “cringe,” The Tampa Bay Times reported. “Even if we did raise the minimum wage, working families will still not be able to make ends meet on those jobs,” Scott argued.
Given conservatives’ sometimes virulent opposition, it’s no wonder Democrats are thrilled to hear prominent Republicans calling for an attitude change.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, praised Romney for supporting the minimum wage.
“I thank Governor Romney for urging Republicans to do the right thing,” he said in a statement provided to ABC News. “Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage is slowly crumbling. Each day brings a new Republican voice urging the Senate to act. We will keep bringing this bill up until it passes, because everyone who works full time deserves a fair shot at getting out of poverty.”