FAIR MINIMUM WAGE ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - February 01, 2007)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I rise to applaud the Senate for its keen sense of balance and judgment in passing H.R. 2, a bill to increase the minimum wage. After important input from both sides, we have met the needs of both America's workers, who will earn a higher wage, and America's small businesses, which fuel our economy.
The President and the Republican Congress were clear on the need to couple an increase in the minimum wage with small-business tax relief, and this legislation does just that. This is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together to move critical legislation forward.
The American people that keep this economy running have created more than 7.2 million new jobs since August 2003--that's 40 months straight of job growth. The economy added 167,000 new jobs last December, exceeding market expectations.
Our unemployment rate is a staggeringly low 4.5 percent or as I like to put it, our employment rate is 95.5 percent. A 4.5 percent unemployment rate is lower than the 5.1 percent average unemployment rate of 2005, which was already a great year.
And a low rate of 4.5 percent is lower than the average unemployment rate of the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, and even lower than the average unemployment rate of the boom years my friends on the other side of the aisle like to point to, the 1990s.
America's small businesses are the key to unlocking this economic success. Small businesses employ half of all private-sector employees and have generated between 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last 10 years.
Here's the bottom line. Since August 2003, the American people have created over 7.2 million new jobs, more than the entire European Union plus Japan combined.
So understandably, this side of the aisle had this objective in mind regarding this bill: What is the best way to raise the minimum wage while keeping our high-flying economy aloft?
How could we encourage economic growth and not hinder it? How could we make sure that an increase in wages wouldn't create a decrease in jobs?
This Senate has successfully done that, by linking an increase in the hourly minimum wage, from $5.15 to $7.25 over slightly more than 2 years, with targeted tax and regulatory relief to small businesses, so that the small businesses that create the lion's share of new jobs in this country can remain competitive and employ even more people.
The President last December emphasized the need to pair minimum wage increase legislation with just this kind of targeted tax and regulatory relief.
In my initial speech to the Senate of the 110th Congress last month, I said we Republicans were open and willing to get things done with Democrats. And I said one of the first goals we should accomplish, working together, was increasing the minimum wage while providing relief for small businesses.
Around the same time, the distinguished majority leader struck a similar note, pledging that when it came to a wage increase plus small-business tax relief, ``we are going to do it.'
I am pleased to report that we have done it. An overwhelming majority of Senators acknowledged that creating new jobs and expanding the economy are more important than partisan wrangling.
And most importantly, we have taken care of the workers who will benefit from a higher wage and the small businesses that grow the economy at the same time.
I am pleased this Senate is doing that, and in doing so reinforcing a vital precedent. I note that the last time the minimum wage was increased, under a Republican Congress and a Democrat President, the same precedent was set.
We look forward to working with the House of Representatives to send a final bill to the President that will be a victory for both those who earn the minimum wage and those who pay it.
When that happens, we will prove that the words of bipartisanship and comity during this Senate's first days were more than empty rhetoric.
We will demonstrate that this Senate can come together to exercise balance and judgment, and improve the lives of both the workers who earn the minimum wage and the small businesses that employ them and keep America's economy running.
And we will show that divided government need not be divisive.