Trump’s Minimum-Wage Reversal Is Latest Headache for Republicans

  • Party standard-bearer breaks again with Republican orthodoxy
  • Democrats have sought higher wage for years to no avail

Donald Trump.

Photographer: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Donald Trump reversed himself on a major policy plank Wednesday as he told reporters he now backs a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage, breaking with years of Republican orthodoxy and his party’s own platform.

“The minimum wage has to go up,” he said at a tumultuous news conference, saying it should go up to $10 from $7.25. He did say that “states should really call the shot,” but “at the same time, people have to be taken care of.”

Asked if he meant the federal minimum wage has to go up to $10 in a followup question, Trump indicated yes. “Federal,” he clarified.

In May, Trump told Fox News that states should choose the wage. “In some states, where it’s more expensive, maybe they do have to lift the minimum wage, and in others, they don’t have to do it. And those people live very well,” Trump said then. During a Republican primary debate in November, he also said that wages were “too high” and that the U.S. was becoming a “non-competitive country.”

‘State and Local Level’

For years, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have sought to raise the wage only to be rebuffed, again and again, by Republican leaders who contend higher wages will reduce the number of jobs and harm the economy. The Democratic platform adopted this week in Philadelphia calls for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

For a QuickTake explainer on the minimum wage, click here. 

By contrast, the Republican platform, approved at last week’s convention in Cleveland, doesn’t back the idea of a federal minimum wage at all. “Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level,” it reads -- a sentence that had been in sync with Trump’s position.

“I would leave it and raise it somewhat,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel Tuesday. Asked again, he said, “I would say 10. I would say 10.” He added, “But the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal.”

‘Bad Economics’

Speaker Paul Ryan, like most Republicans, has opposed raising the minimum wage for years, contending a higher minimum wage would hurt the economy.

“It’s bad economics,” the Wisconsin Republican told CNBC in 2014, opposing a $10 minimum wage. “We don’t want to make it more expensive for employers to be able to hire people.”

Ryan reiterated his opposition to a higher minimum wage last month as he rolled out his anti-poverty agenda.

“I think that will actually do more harm than good in so many instances,” Ryan said then. “It prices entry level jobs away from people.”

Ryan may now be in the uncomfortable spot of opposing his party nominee’s position as Democrats push minimum wage hikes later this year.

For Ryan, though, who also has differences with Trump on trade and immigration, it won’t be the first time.

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