EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS -- (Senate - May 24, 2007)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, while there are many aspects of this conference report that I cannot support, I am pleased that it will finally allow us to get a minimum wage bill to the President's desk. The minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for more than 10 years, but now--finally Americans across the country will get the raise they need and deserve. For the millions of working families who will benefit, this increase may be long overdue, but it is nonetheless something to celebrate.
Mr. President, 13 million Americans will see more money in their paychecks
for the first time in a decade. They will have a few more dollars to spend on the essentials of life, or maybe they will have a few more hours to spare to spend time with their families; 6 million children will have better food, better health, and better opportunities for the future.
I deeply regret that this vital increase was so long in coming. The minimum wage bill passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins in January and February of this year. Had we been able to send that bill to the President's desk right away, the first phase of the raise would already be in effect.
Unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would not let that happen. They prevented the minimum wage bill from going to conference until they could make sure it included a big enough tax giveaway for businesses. That is why were here talking about it today. We had to put in on a bill they couldn't block to get it to the President's desk.
We have overcome many obstacles--and faced every procedural trick in the book--to get this minimum wage increase across the finish line. Democrats stood together, and stood firm, to say that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty.
But we didn't do it alone. The passage of the minimum wage is not merely a legislative victory--it's a victory for the American people.
After years of delay and inexcusable inaction by Congress, the American people took this fight into their own hands. They started a grassroots movement that spread across the Nation like wildfire. They pounded the pavements. They prayed in their pews. They refused to take no for an answer. We are here today because of their efforts, and they deserve the gratitude of our Nation.
The minimum wage is one of the great achievements of our proud democracy. It is a reflection of our values, and a cornerstone of the American dream. It is about the kind of country we want to be.
Americans want to live in a country where everyone has opportunity and the chance to succeed. Where anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can build a better life for their family. Where there is no permanent underclass, and everyone has hope for a brighter future. When the President signs a minimum wage increase into law, we will be one step closer to that noble goal.
Certainly, the increase we have passed today is only the first of many steps we must take to address the problems of poverty and inequality in our society. There is no doubt that we need to do much, much more. But it's important to take a moment today to celebrate this victory. Raising the minimum wage will add dignity to the lives of millions of working families. It is one of the proudest achievements of this new Congress.
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