Josh Hawley Backs $15 Minimum Wage–But With One Condition

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has backed an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour if small businesses are exempt from the hike in pay—meaning only Americans working for big businesses would benefit.

Posting on social media, Hawley said large corporations could afford to pay their workers $15 per hour by 2025, but suggested small businesses would not be able to sustain the same rise in their wage bill.

"The biggest corporations in America can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour," Hawley tweeted on Tuesday. "Raise the minimum wage for big business, not small business."

Newsweek has contacted Senator Hawley's office for further comment on his position.

The Missouri Republican offered conditional support for a hike in the federal minimum wage as lawmakers on Capitol Hill battled over the measure included in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both come under pressure from activists and progressive lawmakers frustrated by their opposition to the $15 federal minimum wage plan.

Manchin has said he would not support the proposed hike, but could potentially back a smaller increase to the bottom tier of pay.

"$11 is the right place to be," Manchin told reporters on Monday. "Throwing $15 out there right now just makes it very difficult in rural America."

The Democrat also signaled that he will vote against the $15 minimum wage proposal when it reaches a vote in the Senate because he wants to protect the Byrd Rule, which bars non-budgetary items from the reconciliation process.

Sinema has similarly opposed the proposed wage hike over concerns that it should not be included in the COVID relief plan under the Byrd Rule.

"The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process," she told Politico. "It is not a budget item. And it shouldn't be in there."

Reacting to Manchin's $11 proposal, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the proposed $15 an hour was "not a radical idea," and called it a "national disgrace" that millions of workers were on lower incomes.

As the row continued to unfold, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) released a $10 minimum wage plan on Tuesday, but were quickly met with criticism from Democratic lawmakers who felt the increase is far too low for struggling Americans.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour over several increments would be a "cruel joke" as she snubbed the proposal. "Poverty cannot be overcome just by $2.75/hour more," she tweeted. "Liveable wage now."

Senator Josh Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks during U.S. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on February 22, 2021. Demetrius Freeman-Pool/Getty Images