Senate Democrats


On 10th anniversary of last time Congress passed wage increase, Senators decry Republican attempts to hold working families hostage to handouts for multi-millionaires

Washington, DC — With Republicans in the U.S. Senate pushing a sham minimum wage plan that would cut the wages of workers across America in an attempt to pass a near-trillion dollar giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Charles Schumer, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today called for a real increase in the minimum wage. On the tenth anniversary of the last time Congress passed an increase in the minimum wage, the Democratic Senators joined with Jeanelle Williams, a minimum wage worker from Baltimore, MD, and Sr. Simone Campell to demand the Republican Congress put working families before the multi-millionaires and pass a real increase in the minimum wage.

In the years since Congress raised the minimum wage to $5.15 per hour, Congress has received a $30,000 raise, the President a $200,000 raise, but the American people have not received a dime more. Congressional Republicans have refused to raise the minimum wage again since, but for the last two years they have even refused to do anything else, setting records for inaction on and inattention to the challenges facing the American people. Now, preparing to leave for their summer vacations, Republicans have finally roused themselves to act on the one issue that can motivate their interest: massive handouts for multi-millionaires.

Congressional Republicans have finally come clean on who they stand for and are willing to fight for, making clear working Americans’ only chance for a raise is if multi-millionaires get a tax break first, and offering sham bill that would actually cut the wages for millions of workers to do it. Democrats believe that Congress should work for ALL Americans, and are fighting for a real minimum wage increase.

“The Republicans are offering a take it or leave it proposal – they’re going to take $750 billion from the U.S. Treasury to give to the richest Americans or they’re going to leave millions of Americans without a minimum wage increase. More than six million Americans, including 333,000 Illinoisans, would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage compared to 8,200 families across the country that would get an average tax cut of $1.4 million. But the Republican leadership would rather eliminate taxes for the wealthiest Americans and raise the national debt instead of working on behalf of Americans looking for a decent wage, for an honest day’s work,” Senator Durbin said.

“The American people are fed up with this do-nothing Congress, and now the Republicans who run it are getting scared,” said Senator Kennedy. “So they are running for political cover – trying to trick the American people into forgetting their decade-long crusade against a fair minimum wage with a fraudulent vote on a tax giveaway bill. It’s a sham hiding an insult, and we cannot tolerate it.”

“If you are working minimum wage job and you do nothing and ignore your responsibilities, you get fired. But here in the do-nothing Republican Congress, you get a raise,” Senator Schumer said. “Families barely making it by on the minimum wage are worried about putting food on the table, skyrocketing prices at the pump, rising tuition costs, and making sure their loved ones are healthy and safe. Congress shouldn’t be lining its pockets while hardworking Americans are struggling just to fill theirs.”

“It has been 10 long years since Congress last increased the minimum wage. Since then, its purchasing power has declined by 20 percent. At the same time, costs for gas, health care and other necessities have skyrocketed. Working families deserve better than to have an urgently needed and long overdue increase in their pay held hostage by a fiscally irresponsible scheme to cut taxes that will bust our budget and further undermine our economy,” said Senator Clinton.

While Democrats pledged that Congress would not get a pay raise before the American people got one first, Congressional Republicans have now responded that the American people will not get a raise until multi-millionaires get massive tax breaks first. Democrats think it is a travesty to hold the economic security of millions of Americans hostage to fiscally irresponsible giveaways to the super-rich, and are fighting to take this country in a new direction.