July 17, 2017 In The News

Norcross: Link minimum wage to must-pass priorities like debt limit or tax cuts

Democrats in Congress should demand action to raise the minimum wage if Republican leaders need their votes to pass bills to keep the government open, cut corporate taxes or increase the debt limit, Rep. Donald Norcross said Monday.

The second-term Democrat from Camden County and former labor leader also said that while he is willing to support some of President Donald Trump’s policies, such as a major infrastructure program, he is fighting Trump’s immigration crackdown, partly because his daughter-in-law was an undocumented “dreamer” faced with deportation.

Norcross told the editorial board of The Record it was wrong that Republicans were talking tax cuts for “1 percenters” while the federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour since 2009 — no longer covers basic living expenses.

“I’m coming from the position, and many of our colleagues are, that there is no corporate tax reform unless you link it to minimum wage,” Norcross said.

“There’s a couple of issues coming up that they absolutely need our support. One is to raise the debt limit. I’m advocating linkages here,” he said. He also suggested tying the wage increase to a continuing resolution that would be needed to keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.

Norcross is the brother of George Norcross, the Democratic leader in South Jersey. The two brothers have remained supportive of and raised money for Sen. Bob Menendez, but Donald Norcross is seen as a potential Senate candidate if Menendez is forced from office by his upcoming corruption trial.

Norcross is a co-sponsor of a bill that would increase the wage incrementally to $15 an hour over seven years.

On Monday morning, its 159 Democratic sponsors included every member of the New Jersey delegation except Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff. But he said Monday afternoon that he had signed on as well, calling the current minimum wage “too little for people who work hard to make ends meet” while a seven-year increase “sets a reasonable and predictable path.”

Norcross said that if Democrats succeed in getting the measure to Trump’s desk, he might sign it.

“I would never write off the president on minimum wage,” Norcross said. “He might think this is a good political idea, which I happen to think it is, because many of the base voters that they say supported the president — those people make the minimum wage.”

Asked about California Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, Norcross said Democrats are “looking at the way the message is delivered” in the 2018 election. He said a focus on economic issues is needed to address voters who complain that Democrats “care more about a tree than me taking care of my kids.”

Norcross also said he is working hard against Trump’s crackdown on immigrants, describing how he learned that his son’s wife — who is now a citizen — was brought illegally into the country from Mexico when she was a child.

The couple met and married when they were serving in the Army in South Korea, then were stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, when they had a child.

“I got a phone call, woke me up in the middle of the night, with my son crying on the phone, saying, ‘They’re going to deport my wife,’ ” he said.

“What he didn’t know, what I didn’t know, is she was one of those dreamers. She was in the chemical response unit serving in South Korea … willing to give her life. And they were going to deport her because her paperwork wasn’t there?” he said.