Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the restoration of earned retirement pay for members of the Armed Forces, and on the need to extend emergency unemployment benefits and raise the minimum wage. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today the United States Senate will consider legislation that would restore earned retirement pay to the men and women of this nation's Armed Forces. This measure restores cost of living adjustments for all military retirees, regardless of their age, disability or employment status. Congress should protect veterans who put their lives on the line to protect our country. I thank Senators Pryor, Shaheen, Hagan, Begich and others for their leadership on this issue.
Although the provision reversed by this measure does not take effect until the end of next year, there is no reason to delay. I hope Republicans will join Democrats to pass this bill without the usual partisan games.
Unfortunately, the type of obstruction and delay tactics I just referred to was on full display last week. On Thursday, the Senate fell one vote short of restoring unemployment insurance for 1.7 million Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
Every single Democratic Senator voted for this bill. Four reasonable Republicans voted with us to restore benefits that boost our economy and provide a lifeline for out-of-work Americans. But we are still one Republican vote shy. And when 1.7 million struggling Americans fall short on the rent, skip meals to save cash or turn down the thermostat on freezing days, they will know who to blame.
We only need one more Republican to step up and do the right thing. Democrats will not stop pushing to restore emergency unemployment insurance. And in the weeks to come we will vote again on this important issue. In the meantime, I hope my colleagues across the aisle will think long and hard about their unsustainable position on this issue -- a position that hurts middle-class families.
In the weeks ahead the Senate will also consider legislation to give 17 million minimum wage workers a much-needed raise and our economy a much-needed boost. No American working full time should live below the poverty line. So Democrats will push to make the minimum wage a living wage, raising it to $10.10 per hour.
To ensure this country's economic success, it's crucial that every American has an opportunity to succeed as well. But when some people have to work two or three full-time jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table, something is wrong.
Minimum wage workers spend their paychecks in local stores, gas stations and restaurants. That's why an increase in the minimum wage will create 85,000 new jobs. This increase is also the key to ensuring every full-time worker has a shot at entering the middle class.
Contrary to common belief, raising the minimum wage isn't just about helping teenagers earn a little extra cash. The average minimum wage worker is 35 years old, and earns half her family's income. The majority of those making the minimum wage are women. And more than a quarter of the workers that would benefit from a raise are supporting children.
Last week, Republicans voted against the interests of middle-class Americans doing their best to survive unemployment. When it comes time to consider Democrats' minimum wage proposal, Republicans will again have to choose between standing up for middle-class families and resorting to more partisan obstruction. Next time, I hope they make the right choice.