Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives at the Senate for a roll call vote to confirm Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be secretary of State, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Listen To The Full Interview Below:

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joined FOX News Radio’s Guy Benson Show and discussed President Biden’s COVID relief package and administration nominees. Senator Romney detailed his proposal to increase the minimum wage and stop the flow of illegal immigration.

Senator Mitt Romney weighed in on the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package saying,

“Well, first of all, I note that there are a number of things in the relief bill that are good things. That’s with regards, for instance, to getting vaccines out and so forth. But there are some things that are a mess. So, the president has $350 billion going to states and localities. Most states and localities don’t need it. He’s making a mistake there. He hadn’t seen the data that’s now come out. Twenty-one states have rising revenues. They didn’t have their revenues go down as were originally thought to happen. They’ve gone up. They don’t need new checks from the federal government. They don’t need the federal government to go borrow hundreds of billions of dollars. So, for instance, California has a record surplus this year. But under the Biden plan, we’re going to be sending them rough $20 billion. It makes no sense. And then look at his school plan, $170 billion going to schools. I think the president just didn’t recognize that we already have $68 billion that’s been appropriated not yet used by schools. And the Congressional Budget Office has looked at this proposal and said none of the $170 billion will be spent this year, because we’ve got so much money in the system already. It’s going to be spent over the next four years beyond that. Look, we don’t need to be spending for COVID relief four years from now. So there’s a lot that we can do to make the president’s bill better. If we’re going to spend that kind of money, let’s spend it on things we really need to help people. And that’s not what’s forming a big part of his legislation.”

Senator Mitt Romney also detailed his proposal to increase the minimum wage and stop the flow of illegal immigration saying,

“Well, we believe that the minimum wage should basically rise with inflation. and if it does rise along with the CPI or some other inflation index, that businesses are able to accommodate that increase just as they do when their various supplies that they get also going up with inflation. So, a small business or a very large business is able to accommodate this increase just like everything else that comes their way. The problem for business occurs when every few years there’s a huge jump in minimum wage. Like the Democrats are planning on going from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. That will put small businesses out of business and people will lose jobs. So, our view is, look, just link these two on a very gradual basis. But then number two, we’re going to raise minimum wages gradually with inflation, but at the same time, we’re stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming into this country, which make it unfair for our workers to compete. And so, we’re putting in place mandatory e-verify, with picture identification such that people that are coming for a job here have to show they’re here legally. If not, they can’t get the job. And if an employer hires them anyway, we penalize the employer heavily, just like we do for employers who don’t pay their taxes. So, enforce immigration law with a new verification system, number one. And then number two, slowly raise the minimum wage with inflation.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST: Joining me now is U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah. And Senator, last time we spoke on the radio, believe it or not, it was 2012, I was calling you governor, you were running for president, you were from a different state. You’ve got a new title, new job now, and we’re delighted to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Happy to join you and those were the good old days.

(LAUGHTER)

BENSON: Let’s start with some immediate Senate business. You have announced that you’re going to be opposing the nomination of Neera Tanden for OMB Budget Director in the Biden administration. We’re seeing some pushback now from her allies and defenders, including some within the White House, saying the critics are opposed because of her sex, because of her race, she’s a woman of color. I wonder what your reaction is to that and what your reasons are for opposing her nomination.

ROMNEY: Well, I think it’s pretty clear that I, along with a lot of other Republicans, have voted in favor of the majority of the Biden nominees and will probably continue to do so. But in this case, unfortunately, Neera Tanden has, in the past, put out almost 1,000 tweets, many of them mean tweets, where she has attacked people, both on the left and the right. The president, I think, correctly said that we needed a new environment in Washington, one where there’s more comity and respect for one another, that attacking one another is no longer appropriate. And having someone at OMB who is most noted for these attacks is probably not a good idea, if we’re going to keep — if we’re going to follow that — I think that appropriate philosophy. So — and I would note that in the past, I was very critical of President Trump’s tweets. I actually voted against one of the president’s — what President Trump’s nominees as a judge because he had put a tweet out that was, I thought, inappropriate with regard to President Obama. And so, just for the sake of consistency, of course, I would have a hard time voting for Neera Tanden. And there are others who I think recognize that her views are out of the mainstream of political thought and don’t think that she would appropriately fill that position.

BENSON: Does it get tiresome to be told that you must be doing that, not because of consistency, not because of your judgment, but because of sexism or racism? And I wonder if that’s really a productive way to go about trying to make friends with someone like Joe Manchin if you’re on the left, because it seems like he’s got a pretty important voice and vote these days.

ROMNEY: He sure does. He’s critical, I think, to both sides. And one thing, when Joe Manchin indicated that he was not going to be supporting Neera Tanden, I think there may have been some other people on my side of the aisle that said, boy, we don’t want him hanging out there by himself, we’ve got to stand with Joe. I think both parties want to stand with Joe these days, because we’re going to need him as we deal with reconciliation and some other things the Democrats have coming down the road. And I’d note that you’re — look, you’re absolutely right that there will often be people who try and characterize your vote in a negative light that has nothing to do with the reality, and I think people recognize that. My administration, when I was governor, had a majority of women in my senior leadership position. My chief of staff is a woman now. I voted for women in positions in the Biden administration. So that’s not the reason here. But, of course, there will always be cheap shots taken when they can be taken.

BENSON: You know, Senator, I’m so old, I remember when that was actually used against you because you used the word binders, and apparently that was a problem. It’s just sort of a wild — a very different time. One more question on presidential nominees, Xavier Becerra at HHS. We’ve seen really strong opposition from a lot of your Republican colleagues to this nomination. They cite Becerra’s lack of qualifications in their mind. He’s a lawyer, not a public health expert. He also has exhibited, I think it’s fair to say, extraordinary hostility to religious freedom and some punitive vindictiveness toward pro-lifers in California in his role as attorney general. Do you have an inclination on the Becerra nomination?

ROMNEY: Well, I’d note, first of all, I’m less concerned than most of my colleagues about his relative lack of experience in the medical world. We’ve had some HHS secretaries without medical experience who’ve been very effective, so that for me is not the issue. The big issue is more of the nature that you describe with regards to policy, which is, religious freedom is critical. I’m also concerned that we have an individual who voted against banning partial birth abortions. But both parties have a point-of-view with regards to abortions. Some are pro-life and some are pro-choice, but the great majority of people on both sides of the aisle across the American continent recognize that partial birth abortion is wrong. But Mr. Becerra would not say that today in the hearing and has not pursued that in his legislative career. So –

(CROSSTALK)

BENSON: Is that disqualifying in your mind?

ROMNEY: Well, it obviously raises a major concern for me. I haven’t reached a final decision on Mr. Becerra, but that, among other things, is a real concern.

BENSON: OK. On COVID relief, we had an interesting series of comments from President Biden yesterday. He, of course is pushing for his $1.9 trillion package and sort of throwing down the gauntlet at critics of the bill like you. He said, “What would they have me cut?” And he called that a rhetorical question. But I’m not so sure it’s rhetorical. I think it’s a question that you can answer, and, in fact, you and some of your colleagues have answered it by putting out your own alternative and meeting with the president about it. When he now says, well, what would they have me cut, as if every single cent of nearly $2 trillion is indispensable to COVID relief and getting Americans what they need, what is you retort? What is your reply to that challenge from the president?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I note that there are a number of things in the relief bill that are good things. That’s with regards, for instance, to getting vaccines out and so forth. But there are some things that are a mess. So, the president has $350 billion going to states and localities. Most states and localities don’t need it. He’s making a mistake there. He hadn’t seen the data that’s now come out. Twenty-one states have rising revenues. They didn’t have their revenues go down as were originally thought to happen. They’ve gone up. They don’t need new checks from the federal government. They don’t need the federal government to go borrow hundreds of billions of dollars. So, for instance, California has a record surplus this year. But under the Biden plan, we’re going to be sending them rough $20 billion. It makes no sense. And then look at his school plan, $170 billion going to schools. I think the president just didn’t recognize that we already have $68 billion that’s been appropriated not yet used by schools. And the Congressional Budget Office has looked at this proposal and said none of the $170 billion will be spent this year, because we’ve got so much money in the system already. It’s going to be spent over the next four years beyond that. Look, we don’t need to be spending for COVID relief four years from now. So there’s a lot that we can do to make the president’s bill better. If we’re going to spend that kind of money, let’s spend it on things we really need to help people. And that’s not what’s forming a big part of his legislation.

BENSON: Do you worry — and this is sort of something I’ve seen coming now for years, I’m not alone in this — that when Republicans and conservatives raise some of these objections the way that you just did, saying, well, this is wasteful, this isn’t necessary, this piece doesn’t make any sense — we’ve seen a lot of your colleagues out there talking about wasteful spending, things that are irresponsible and reckless and talking about borrowing all this money — hundreds of billions of dollars and so on and so forth — I think that those are all completely fair arguments, but I also worry that a lot of Americans look at the track record in recent years of the Republican Party and say, oh, OK, they’ve found religion again on deficits and debt and being fiscally responsible after making nary a peep on any of that stuff while they were in charge, now they’re back in opposition, so they can sort of do this again, put on this show again. And I think some will say they don’t really have creditability on these issues regardless of the merits. Is that a fair critic of the GOP right now?

ROMNEY: There’s no question it’s going to be leveled (ph) at us, and I think there’s some fairness in it. I think that the last administration and Republicans in Congress were wrong to allow near trillion-dollar deficits even as the economy was going well. And I think we lost a lot of creditability. I think that was a big mistake on the part of my party. I was one of those voices, as you know, that said, hey, look, this kind of spending, this deficit spending is wrong, we need to reform our programs. But there are two aspects; however, one is whether or not we care about deficits and debt. And I think both parties should care about that. I care about it a great deal. But number two, if we’re going to be spending money, and perhaps even running a deficit, are we spending it on things we need, and on things that will actually, if you will, pay dividends over a long period time with better education, better healthcare, better infrastructure. And the problem with the president’s $1.9 trillion proposal is not just that it’s massive, which it is, but it’s this being spent on things that we don’t need — sending money to states that don’t need it, sending money to programs that don’t need it. This is — this is what’s, in my opinion, it’s not just that it’s too big, it’s that it’s not needed. It’s going to places that are — do not absolutely require the funding. So, look, we don’t have a lot of credibility given our past on saying we’re fighting against deficits. But, in this case we have — we have, I think, a lot of credibility saying where we spent the money in the past, we spent it on things that we thought were absolutely necessary and would pay a dividend over time for the country. The problem with the president’s plan right now is it is not going entirely to what’s needed, and it will not be paying dividend over time. Look, if it were going to infrastructure and more vaccine development, we’d all be for it.

BENSON: Senator Romney, you just invoked the Congressional Budget Office a few moments ago. And let’s talk about CBO. They have put out a finding that increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is what the Democrats are hoping to do in this plan, in this package, that would cost the American economy 1.4 million jobs, and that’s one of the biggest talking points, I think a good one, for conservatives against raising the minimum wage across the board to that level. There are some conservatives who might raise an eyebrow that you and Senator Cotton are introducing this week the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, which among other things, does gradually increase the federal minimum wage. It also makes some significant changes on the immigration side of policy. If you could just give maybe the elevator pitch for what you and Senator Cotton are trying to accomplish in this bill, and why in your mind it doesn’t undermine traditional –and I would argue strong — economic arguments against hiking up the federal minimum wage?

ROMNEY: Well, we believe that the minimum wage should basically rise with inflation. and if it does rise along with the CPI or some other inflation index, that businesses are able to accommodate that increase just as they do when their various supplies that they get also going up with inflation. So, a small business or a very large business is able to accommodate this increase just like everything else that comes their way. The problem for business occurs when every few years there’s a huge jump in minimum wage. Like the Democrats are planning on going from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. That will put small businesses out of business and people will lose jobs. So, our view is, look, just link these two on a very gradual basis. But then number two, we’re going to raise minimum wages gradually with inflation, but at the same time, we’re stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming into this country, which make it unfair for our workers to compete. And so, we’re putting in place mandatory e-verify, with picture identification such that people that are coming for a job here have to show they’re here legally. If not, they can’t get the job. And if an employer hires them anyway, we penalize the employer heavily, just like we do for employers who don’t pay their taxes. So, enforce immigration law with a new verification system, number one. And then number two, slowly raise the minimum wage with inflation.

BENSON: And finally, last piece of it, what about the argument on the minimum wage, that this would really hurt young entry-level workers, part-time workers, teenagers, for example, who overwhelmingly are the folks who earn the minimum wage, if you’re going to raise the cost of labor, right, to the employer, might those jobs go away? How do you try to hedge or mitigate against that concern?

ROMNEY: Well, that was a real concern. And so, we put in place a youth minimum wage, which is substantially lower than the adult minimum wage. And so, for instance, when we get to $10 an hour in year five, the youth minimum wage is $6 an hour and that stays in place for some 180 days while someone is coming into the workforce. So, we want to encourage employers to hire young people, to get them into the workforce. And so, a substantially lower minimum wage for young people coming in, at least for their first 180 days.

BENSON: Well Senator, I have to say, it feels like a change of pace and somewhat refreshing to be talking about policy. I know that’s wild, because we’d seemed to talk about everything else in politics these days except for policy. I think it’s a worthwhile conversation to have. I look forward to watching you and Senator Cotton go to bat for this legislation. We’ll see where it goes. In the meantime, we so appreciate your time today, and we hope we can chat again soon.

ROMNEY: Thanks so much, good to be with you.

BENSON: Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, on “The Guy Benson Show.” We’ll be right back.