Susan Collins Says She Could Support $11 Minimum Wage, Suggests Bipartisan Talks

Senator Susan Collins has suggested she could support raising the federal minimum wage to $11 an hour and called for bipartisan talks.

The Maine lawmaker pointed to how Democrats were using budget reconciliation to push through the COVID-19 relief bill without GOP support—despite attempts by her and other Republican senators to reach a compromise on the package.

"It takes two to negotiate," she told News Center Maine, as she suggested Republicans had been shut out.

Collins added that the minimum wage was an issue on which the two parties could work together. She said she had previously backed a proposal to increase the federal minimum to $10 an hour.

"I could go to $11 for that matter, I probably shouldn't negotiate on television," she said.

"But my point is: why not bring up minimum wage? See if we can negotiate a compromise on it, that's way more than $7.25 but less than $15. And states can still set their own but for a federal floor, and see if we can get it done."

Collins described $7.25, the current federal minimum wage, as "far too low."

Newsweek has contacted the senator's office for further comment.

susan collins at senate selcte intelligence committee
Senator Susan Collins during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill on February 24. The Republican lawmaker has suggested she could back a raise in the federal minimum wage to $11 an hour. Tom Williams/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden had originally wanted the $15 minimum wage to be included in his COVID relief bill. However, the Senate parliamentarian, a non-partisan adviser on the chamber's protocols, ruled that this proposal could not be passed through reconciliation.

Senator Bernie Sanders tabled an amendment to the relief package to include the wage, but it did not pass. Last month the independent senator from Vermont described the proposal as not a "radical idea."

He and other progressives have continued to voice their desire for a $15 wage, suggesting that this figure already constitutes a compromise.

Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, has called instead for a rise to $11, showing common ground with Collins. He has also suggested that Republican lawmakers could support a smaller increase.

On CNN this week, Manchin was asked who he thinks would work with Democrats on raising the minimum wage in the upper chamber. He replied: "I think that every Republican wants to raise the minimum wage. Everyone's just not in sync with Bernie Sanders at $15."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated last week that a minimum wage increase could be "worth discussing," because it "hasn't been raised for a while."

The graphic below, from Statista, shows the minimum wage in various states as of January this year.

U.S. minimum wage at state level