Thursday, October 20, 2005

Senate Republicans Slap Working Americans Again

Just as they did earlier this year, Senate Republicans today shot down another attempt by Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) once again sponsored the measure that would have raised the minimum allowable wage rate to $6.25 over an 18-month period. The minimum wage has been at $5.15 per hour since 1997.

Kennedy's amendment, which was attached to an appropriations bill, failed by a vote of 51-47, with all Democrats on the Senate floor voting for the increase and all but four Republicans voting against it.

Kennedy had tried to push through the bill (S.AMDT.2063) as a compromise to another wage hike that Republicans defeated earlier this year.

"This is a modification of our amendment which was to raise the minimum wage to $7.25," said Kennedy when arguing for his amendment on Tuesday. "It seemed to me that in an attempt to try to find some common ground with our friends on the other side, we would modify this amendment to reflect what had been the position of the Republican side the last time we had the debate on the increase in the minimum wage and that was $1.10."

But Republicans apparently changed their minds, deciding that an extra $44 a week (before taxes) was more than working Americans deserve and allowing Kennedy's pleas to fall on deaf ears.

After the vote, Kennedy said it was "absolutely unconscionable" that Republican senators continue to deny raising the federal minimum wage while, in the same period, voting themselves six pay raises worth $28,000.

"We have increased our own salaries some six times in that 9-year period. We have not increased the minimum wage," Kennedy said. "We know the total number of children who have fallen into poverty, the total number of families who have fallen into poverty, some 5 million Americans--5 million Americans have fallen into poverty during the Bush Administration. And we saw at the time of the Katrina tragedy the fact that so many of our fellow citizens have been left out and left behind, lost opportunity, and certainly lost income."

Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN), one of the bill's co-sponsors, was as angry as Kennedy.

“It is disgraceful that Congress has turned its back on the low-income workers of America and failed to enact an increase in the minimum wage for almost a decade,” said Dayton today.

Knowing Republicans as well as he does, Kennedy called them on their hypocrisy before the vote was even taken late this afternoon.

"The Bush Administration and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have talked a lot about poverty in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But actions speak louder than words," Kennedy declared.

Indeed they do. And, with the 2006 elections looming, and control of the Congress hanging in the balance, one hopes the majority of Americans will see what party is consistently on their side and vote their own best interests next year.