Politics

Graham Pitches Minimum Wage Hike as Part of Tax Overhaul Effort

Suggests raising the wage to $10.10 with business tax cuts

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,wants to cut taxes and raise the minimum wage. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One Republican senator has an unusual idea for ensuring that the effort to overhaul the tax code benefits among the poorest working Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham plans to propose tying an increase in the federal minimum wage to the tax overhaul package.

“I’m going to offer a minimum wage increase,” Graham said. “When it comes from the House, I’m going to offer a minimum wage increase because I want everybody to benefit.”

That’s what Graham, a South Carolina Republican, really wanted to talk about as he emerged from the Senate chamber following Thursday night’s rather tame vote-a-rama.

“I just think it makes sense to me. You know, we’re going help businesses. I wouldn’t offer a minimum wage increase unless we cut taxes. We’re going to have a pass-through rate reduction, a corporate rate reduction. We’re going to simplify the tax code,” Graham said.

The Trump administration has been pushing a Council of Economic Advisers report showing that the proposal to bring the corporate tax rate down to twenty percent could be a boon not only for U.S. businesses, but also for workers. But skeptics argue that the tax savings might be used for stock buybacks or dividends by publicly-traded companies.

Graham’s proposal seems to be to force that savings get passed on to employees, at least at the lower end of the pay scale.

“What about the folks out there who are working on minimum wage? Young people, seniors,” Graham said. “It wouldn’t bother me one bit over a couple of years to get them north of $10-an-hour as part of an overall shot to the economy. I think businesses can absorb this if we cut taxes.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Graham thinks his minimum wage proposal, which he suggested could phase the wage up to $10.10 an hour, could help woo Democrats to support the bill.

“If we fail to deliver a meaningful tax cut after having the White House, the Senate and the House, then our base our is going to explode and our days will be numbered,” Graham said. “If we deliver a responsible tax cut that helps the economy, we’ll do well. There are at least a handful of Democrats where it would be good politics for them to help reform the tax code and lower tax codes.”

Graham’s effort would need to win over significant bipartisan support, since the Senate budget reconciliation rules could easily stop the the South Carolina senator in his tracks. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will not be receiving reconciliation instructions as part of the budget resolution passed by the Senate Thursday night, so such a measure would likely be outside the scope of protections against filibusters.

Despite some outreach by President Donald Trump and other Republicans to Democrats on the tax policy debate, the Graham minimum wage could be the first example of a concrete sweetener that a Republican is offering to the Democrats, no matter how far-fetched such an addition may be.

“There are plenty of Democrats that would probably benefit from helping President Trump on tax cuts,” said Graham.

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