April 30, 2014

Sen. Warren Remarks on Republican Filibuster of Minimum Wage Increase: "This is Outrageous"

Pledges to Keep Fighting for Hardworking Families

Video of the Full Speech Available Here

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered remarks today on the Senate floor in response to Senate Republicans’ filibuster of a bill to increase the federal minimum wage. The full text of her remarks is available here:

Mr. President, it’s been seven years since Congress last increased the minimum wage. Seven years since Congress stood up for our working families. Seven years since Congress gave America a raise.

Earlier today the Senate had a chance to do something about that when we voted on whether to increase the minimum wage. Earlier today we had a chance to give a raise to the parents of at least 14 million kids – a chance to lift nearly a million full-time workers out of poverty. A majority of Senators tried to do that today – 55 Senators supported raising the minimum wage. But Republicans filibustered the bill, so it didn’t pass. 

This is outrageous.

For nearly half a century as we came out of the Great Depression, the people of this country lived by the basic principle that we all do better when we work together and build opportunities for everyone.  For nearly half a century, as our country got richer, our people got richer—and as our people got richer, our country got richer. You know, the basic idea was that as the pie got bigger, we all get a little more – even those who make only the minimum wage.

I know this story because it’s my story. Like a lot of folks, I grew up in a family that had ups and downs. When I was 12, my daddy had a heart attack and was out of work for a long time. The bills piled up.  We lost our car and we were right on the edge of losing our home. My mom was 50 years old when she pulled on her best dress and walked to the Sears to get a job.  It paid minimum wage, but back then, a minimum wage job was enough to keep a family of three above water. And that’s how it was for us. That’s one of the ways our country built—and protected—America’s great middle class.

But that’s not how it works anymore. In 1968, the minimum wage was high enough to keep a working parent with a family of three out of poverty. In 1980, the minimum wage was at least high enough to keep a working parent with a family of two out of poverty. Today, the minimum wage isn’t even enough to keep a fully-employed mother and a baby out of poverty.

Something is fundamentally wrong when millions of Americans can work full time and still live in poverty. And something is fundamentally wrong when big companies can get away with paying poverty-level wages and then stick taxpayers with the cost when their full-time workers end up on food stamps and Medicaid.

I understand that some big businesses might like to keep things the way they are. But I really don’t understand this Republican filibuster. There’s nothing conservative about leaving millions of working people in poverty. There’s nothing conservative about expanding enrollment in government assistance programs. And there’s nothing conservative about preserving a sweetheart deal for companies that would rather milk the taxpayers for more corporate welfare than compete on a level playing field.

So I am disappointed about what happened today. But I am also hopeful. A majority of the United States Senate—Democrats in the United States Senate—voted to honor work, to honor the people who get up every day and bust their tails to try to build a better life for themselves and their children.

This is an uphill fight – but it isn’t over yet. It took us four months and many Republican filibusters before we finally convinced a handful of our Republican colleagues to support an extension of emergency unemployment benefits. But we passed that bill in the Senate, and we will pass this bill too. Because after seven years, with millions of our working families struggling to get by, with millions of children depending on a mom or a dad who works long hours for low pay, it is long past time to increase the minimum wage.