Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the state of the economy for middle-class families today:
“While the president touts his failed economic agenda that has left millions of American families with higher bills and lower wages to pay them, Democrats remain committed to creating an economy that works for all Americans. While some corporations are enjoying increased profits, the benefits of economic growth still have not reached many hard working middle-class families.
“Instead of pushing to spend billions of dollars on tax breaks for millionaires and the special interests, Republicans in the White House and Congress should join Democrats in pursuing policies that will address the factors squeezing middle-class families today. We can help to cut the skyrocketing costs of health care, gas prices and college tuition by focusing on the priorities of the American people.”
DEMOCRATIC SOLUTIONS TO IMPROVE THE STATE OF OUR ECONOMY FOR MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES
Democrats have proposed a variety of measures to improve our economy and address the middle class squeeze. Unfortunately, Washington Republicans, often acting on behalf of special interests, have repeatedly blocked these efforts.
Increase Wages: Democrats worked to increase the Federal minimum wage to restore the power of the minimum wage for working Americans. The Federal minimum wage has not been increased since 1997. Since 1997, Members of Congress have passed pay increases for themselves seven times, equivalent to a raise of $28,500 or nearly three times the income of a worker earning the Federal minimum wage. Senator Kennedy introduced an amendment that would increase the Federal minimum wage by $1.10 to $7.75 an hour. The amendment was rejected by Senate Republicans. [RC 257, S. Amdt. 2063 to H.R. 3058, 10/19/05, 47-51]
Cut the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Democrats have proposed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate for better prices. Washington Republicans have blocked these proposals on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. [RC 60, S. Amdt. 214 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/17/05, 49-50; S. 334; RC 302, S.AMDT.2371 to S. 1932, 11/3/05, 51-48]
Make College Tuition More Affordable: Democrats have proposed to expand student aid and make college tuition deductible. Instead, Washington Republicans just voted for the largest student aid cut in our nation’s history, so that the savings can be used for special interest tax breaks. [RC 363, S. 1932, 12/21/05, 50-50 (Vice President Cheney Cast the Tie-breaking Vote)]
Cut the Cost of Gas Prices: Democrats have proposed to crack down on price gouging and market manipulation, but Washington Republicans have blocked such efforts on behalf of the oil and gas industry. [S. 1735]
Provide Relief from Skyrocketing Home Heating Prices: Democrats proposed to provide relief to Americans struggling with rising home heating costs, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and were rejected three times by Republicans. However, while Washington Republicans have approved a variety of new subsidies for the energy industry, during last minute budget negotiations they dropped an increase in LIHEAP assistance that would have helped ordinary families. [RC 250, S. Amdt. 2033 to H.R. 2863, 10/5/05, 50-49; RC 261, S. Amdt. 2077 to H.R. 3058, 10/20/05, 53-46; RC 270, S. 2194 to H.R. 3010, 10/26/05, 54-43]
Restore Fiscal Responsibility: While supporting fiscally responsible middle-class tax relief, Democrats have opposed massive new tax breaks for special interests and multi-millionaires that would increase the deficit. In addition, Democrats have pushed to reestablish “pay as you go” rules that require all new tax cuts and spending to be offset, to prevent further increases in the budget deficit. Washington Republicans have made deficit-increasing tax breaks their top priority, while defeating proposals to reestablish fiscal discipline through the “pay as you go” rules. [RC 53, S. Amdt. 186 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05, 50-50; RC 283, S. Amdt. 2351 to S. 1932, 11/3/05, 50-49]