WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) testified before the House Rules Committee this evening and called on the Committee to make in order an amendment to increase the minimum wage over two years. Hoyer offered an identical amendment to the FY07 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that passed with seven Republican votes, yet the House Republican leadership has stalled floor consideration of the Labor-HHS bill. Below is the text of Whip Hoyer's remarks to the Rules Committee, as prepared for delivery:
"Chairman Dreier, Ranking Member Slaughter and Members of the committee: I come before the committee today to request that you make in order as an amendment to H.R. 5672 - the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2007 - the Obey-Hoyer-Mollohan amendment to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over two years.
"Now, I recognize that this amendment was not adopted (it failed 28 to 34) when the committee considered the SSJC bill last week. However, I believe there are several very good reasons to make this amendment in order on this particular bill. First, as you know, the identical amendment was adopted by the Appropriations Committee when the Committee considered the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill on June 13th. That amendment, based on the Miller-Kennedy minimum wage bills, passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 32 to 27.However, as you also know, it is now unclear when the Labor-HHS bill will be considered by the House. Thus, given the uncertain status of the Labor-HHS bill, I believe it is entirely appropriate to allow the Members of the House to consider this amendment on an up-or-down vote on this b! ill.
"Second, it now appears that the Majority Leader (Mr. Boehner) has had a change of heart on whether or not he will allow a vote on the floor to increase the minimum wage. Early last week, Congress Daily quoted the Majority Leader as saying: 'I'm opposed to it and I think the vast majority of our conference is opposed to it. There are limits to my willingness to just throw anything out on the floor.' However, on Thursday, CQ Today reported that our colleague, Congressman LaHood, met with the Majority Leader. And, as a result of those conversations, Mr. Boehner reportedly told Mr. LaHood, 'We will vote on a minimum wage increase.'
"Mr. Chairman, in lieu of allowing such a vote on the Labor-HHS bill, I submit that this SSJC bill is the next best vehicle. Let me add here, too, allowing a vote on an increase in the minimum wage is entirely consistent with the wishes of the American people. Last November, a Gallup Poll found that 83 percent of Americans supports an increase. Similarly, a Pew Research Center Poll in December found that 86 percent supports an increase.
"Now finally, Mr. Chairman, I believe that making this amendment in order is a simple matter of equity and a demonstration of our values. I agree with Congressman LaHood, who said last week: 'I think our party should show a little heart and compassion and fairness to people who haven't had an increase in nine years.'
"Mr. Chairman, the facts are well known. The minimum wage has not been increased since 1997, the second-longest period since the minimum wage was enacted. It is at its lowest level, adjusted for inflation, in 50 years. In fact, if the minimum wage was equal to what it was at its highest point (reached in 1968), it would be $9.05 per hour - not $5.15. There are 6.6 million workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage, including approximately 614,000 single parents. So, the idea, Mr. Chairman, that no one really makes the minimum wage is simply belied by the facts.
"Let's do what's right. Let's do what's fair. We want people to work hard and play by the rules. And, when they do, they should not be relegated to poverty. I urge the members of the committee to make this amendment in order."