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DES MOINES, Iowa - U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said he could support increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 or $10 an hour — an amount that isn't likely to appease Democrats in Congress, who support increasing it to $15.
Grassley, Iowa's senior Republican senator, and other members of his party have said raising the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $15 is too steep.
"I kind of have laid down a marker of something that would increase the $7 and a quarter to whatever inflation would bring it, and let’s say that could be $9 to $10," he said Wednesday on a call with Iowa reporters.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives and can break ties in the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris, are pushing for a phased-in $15 minimum wage. The party tried to include a minimum wage increase in its latest COVID-19 relief package, although the increase is not expected to be included in the final bill.
Congress last approved a minimum wage increase in 2007, raising the wage to its current federal rate of $7.25 an hour. Many states have raised their minimum wages above that federal minimum. Iowa, like neighboring Wisconsin, has not.
Asked about a minimum wage increase by reporters in Washington on Tuesday, Grassley said he was comfortable with an increase in the federal minimum wage.
"Probably $9.75 to $10 and a quarter, somewhere in that range," he said. "I think that falls in the category that, if we had had an inflation factor in it 'til now, it would bring it up to what it was at the $7 and a quarter in 2007, I think. You'll have to check me out on that, I believe that's right."
A Consumer Price Index inflation calculator offered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that $7.25 in January 2007 would be worth $9.37 in January 2021 dollars.
Grassley on Wednesday pointed to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimates raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would result in the loss of as many as 1.4 million jobs. The same analysis said it would boost the pay for as many as 27 million Americans and would lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty.
Grassley said in the past when Congress has raised the minimum wage it has also included provisions to help small businesses avoid laying off employees who would make a higher wage.
GOP senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are proposing a $10 wage, but only if businesses are required to use the internet-based E-Verify system, designed to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa's junior Republican senator, has been critical of the $15 minimum wage proposal, calling it part of "a liberal wish list from career Washington politicians" in a column in the Sioux City Journal last month.
But she recently told Business Insider she's open to supporting some level of wage increase, but thinks the decision is best left to states.
"I'm pretty adamant about states and localities kind of determining what's right for their own state," she said, according to the publication. "I do think it's a discussion we need to have."
USA Today contributed to this report.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Chuck Grassley supports raising minimum wage to around $10 an hour