Allison Sherry and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
WASHINGTON -- Former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty said early Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe that Republicans should back a minimum wage increase.
"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," the former presidential contender said on the morning cable program. "There are some basic things we should be for."
Pawlenty's comments come ahead of a Senate vote later today on a proposal supported by President Obama to boost the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 in three steps, concluding in 2016. The measure is supported by DFL Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom have made floor speeches in the last two days in support.
Obama will also make remarks on the minimum wage later today. The vote is not likely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled House. Neither GOP Reps. John Kline or Erik Paulsen's office responded to questions on the wage hike Wednesday.
As Democrats were trumpeting Pawlenty's comments, the former governor made clear that his support for a minimum wage increase does not mean he backed the $10.10 an hour plan.
"The proposal being presented by the Senate majority goes too far and too fast,” Pawlenty said in an email to Politico.
Pawlenty, who is now the CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, has a significant history with minimum wage increase proposals.
As governor back in 2005, Pawlenty signed a Minnesota minimum wage hike. That measure lifted the state's wage floor from $5.15 an hour, where it had stagnated since 1997, to $6.15 an hour for large employers.
At the time, the hike had bipartisan support and primarily Republican opposition. Among the Republicans who voted against it -- then state Rep. Paulsen, who is now in the U.S. House.
In subsequent years, Pawlenty vetoed legislators' attempt to raise the state's minimum so it remained at $6.15 an hour, even as the federal minimum went up to $7.25 an hour. Since then, Minnesota has had one of the lowest minimum wages in the country.
But this year, the DFL-controlled Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton set out to change that.
After considerable debate, they approved a minimum wage increase. Earlier this month, Dayton signed into law an measure to raise the state's minimum to $9.50 an hour by 2016. Future increases would be tied to inflation, meaning the state's lowest wage workers would continue to get paycheck boosts after 2016 except in times of significant economic downturns.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Franken said the oft-repeated argument among Republicans that the minimum wage doesn't help businesses isn't true.
"People who earn minimum wage spend the money they're earning," he said. "Workers who are better paid are better workers and are less likely to quit ... It helps business."