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WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following remarks today at a press conference with House Democratic Leaders highlighting the Republicans' failure to address issues important to the American people before the 4th of July Recess. Rep. Hoyer successfully added an amendment to increase the minimum wage earlier this month to the FY07 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill, and as a result Republican leaders blocked that bill from coming to the Floor for a vote:
"This Republican-controlled Congress has met only 65 days this year tying with 1998 for the fewest days in session before the Fourth of July in at least sixty years. It is fewer days than even the famous 'Do-Nothing' Congress that Harry Truman successfully ran against. One very important issue that this 'Do-Less-Than-Do-Nothing'Congress is neglecting is an increase in the minimum wage - even though it hasn't been increased in almost a decade and is at its lowest level in 50 years.
"A minimum wage earner who works full-time earns just $10,700 a year, leaving them well below the poverty line. It takes a minimum wage worker an entire day's pay to fill up their gas tank. The average family of four spends $150 a week on groceries, which would be almost four days' pay for a minimum wage worker. The 6.6 million Americans earning the minimum wage today are not teenagers working summer or part-time jobs as opponents of an increase would have you believe. Three-quarters of those workers are adults over the age of 20. Nearly half of them work full-time. More than 1.6 million of them are parents with kids.
"Another favorite red herring is that an increase in the minimum wage will harm the economy. In fact, research shows that increases do not hurt the economy and may actually help it. Democrats have proposed an increase from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25 in three steps over the next two years. This is by any measure a fair and modest increase. If the minimum wage was equal to what it was at its highest point - reached in 1968 - it would be $9.05 today.
"And perhaps even more compelling is the fact that last year the average CEO in America was paid 821 times as much as a minimum wage earner - earning more before lunchtime on the very first day at work than a minimum wage worker earns all year. Forty years ago, a CEO earned only 51 times that of a minimum wage earner. People who work hard and play by the rules should not be relegated to poverty in the richest nation on earth. Democrats want to take our country in a new direction - to a place where all work is valued and all hard working Americans are able to feed, clothe and shelter their families."