WASHINGTON, DC - Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House floor today in support of increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. Below are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, this legislation – the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 – is long overdue, and I believe it will pass this House today with broad bipartisan support.
"At long last, this House is just hours away from finally passing a “clean” increase in the federal minimum wage and sending this legislation to the Senate, where we hope the Members of the other body will do the same without delay.
"H.R. 2 is the second key piece of legislation in the new Democratic Majority’s '100 Hours' Agenda, and we are following through on our pledge to the American people to immediately address this issue.
"There is probably not a Member of this House who fails to appreciate that an American who works full-time at today’s minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is essentially living in poverty.
"That worker, if he or she works 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, makes roughly $10,700 per year – an amount that is nearly $6,000 below the poverty level for a family of three.
"Passing this legislation today – which will raise the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour to $7.25 in three steps over the next two years – is simply a matter of doing what’s right, what’s just and what’s fair.
"It has been nine years and four months since the last increase in the federal minimum wage took effect. This represents the longest period without an increase since Congress established the minimum wage in 1938.
"At $5.15 today, the minimum wage is at its lowest level, adjusted for inflation, in half a century. And, in fact, if the minimum wage had been adjusted for inflation since 1968, it would be $9.05 today.
"Meanwhile, just since 2000, the costs of health insurance, gasoline, home heating and attending college have increased by nearly $5,000 a year.
"This legislation will benefit literally millions of Americans. An estimated 5.6 million Americans, who make less than $7.25 per hour, will directly benefit from this increase. And, an estimated 7.3 million Americans – including family members of those making less than $7.25 – will indirectly benefit.
"Now, there are those who will claim this legislation will hurt small businesses and the economy. But in fact, according to one recent study, small business employment grew more in states with a higher minimum wage between 1997 and 2003 than in federal minimum wage states.
"And Lee Scott, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, has stated that the current minimum wage “is out of date with the times. We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.”
"Mr. Speaker, 89 percent of the American people said they support an increase in the federal minimum wage in a recent Newsweek poll. The President of the United States recently said that he could support an increase. And, 64 House Republicans joined Democrats here last July in voting for a $7.25 per hour minimum wage under a vocational education bill.
"There is simply no reason not to support this legislation.
"In the United States of America, the richest country on earth, you should not be relegated to poverty if you work hard and play by the rules.
"I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Support this reasonable, bipartisan legislation."