WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke today on the House floor about the need to increase the federal minimum wage, which has not been increased since 1997.
The House voted twice today on the minimum wage. First, Democrats tried to defeat the previous question on the Rule for H.R. 2990, the Credit Rating Agency Act, which would allow the House to consider the Miller/Owens Minimum Wage Bill as its next piece of business. The second vote was a Motion to Instruct Conferees on S. 250, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2005.
Mr. Hoyer spoke regarding the House's first vote of the day on the minimum wage. Below are Whip Hoyer's remarks, as prepared for delivery.
"Mr. Speaker, the Members of this House need to stop talking about raising the federal minimum wage. We need to start acting to make this increase a reality for the 6.6 million minimum-wage earners in this country, who have been making the same hourly wage - $5.15 - since 1997. I want to assure my Republican friends, especially those who are holding up this long-overdue increase: we Democrats are not going to stop talking about this issue until this House acts on it.
"Raising the federal minimum wage is a matter of doing what's right, what's just and what's fair - not only for minimum-wage workers, but also for a nation that prides itself on its equity. It's simply not right that a man or woman in the United States who works hard and plays by the rules is relegated to poverty.
"Yet, that is precisely what happens today with minimum wage earners who work full time. They earn just $10,700 a year. In fact, studies show that the average chief executive officer in 2005 made 821 times as much as a minimum-wage worker, up from 450 times as much in 1997. In fact, corporate CEOs make as much before lunch on their first day of work every year as a minimum-wage worker makes in an entire year.
"The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the failure to raise the minimum wage is simply not defensible. The federal minimum wage is at its lowest level, adjusted for inflation, in 50 years. And, if the minimum wage today was equal to what it was at its highest point (reached in 1968), it would be $9.05 per hour today.
"The American people understand that this is an issue of fairness. That's why two recent polls - the Gallup poll and the Pew Research Center poll - found that more than 80 percent of Americans supported an increase in the federal minimum wage.
"I urge my colleagues: oppose the previous question to allow this House to vote on the Miller-Owens bill to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years."
The motion to instruct conferees was agreed to by 260 to 159. The previous question was agreed to (against Democratic efforts)by 223 to 197.