The Minimum Wage

Floor Speech

Date: April 30, 2014
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. President, I would like to start this morning by reading an excerpt from a 1998 memo from Gene Sperling to President Clinton. It relates to a minimum-wage proposal similar to the one we are considering today. Here is what he wrote:

Your entire economic team believes that this approach is too aggressive and are concerned that ..... [it] could prove damaging to employment prospects of low-skilled workers, as well as to the general macroeconomic performance of the economy.

But the memo noted there was a plus side to supporting that proposal. ``[It] would unify [the] liberal wing of the Democratic party.''

Today feels like déja 2 vu all over again because even though our constituents keep telling us they expect Washington to focus on jobs, that is clearly not what they are getting from the Senate. Instead, Senate Democrats are pushing legislation today that would cost as many as 1 million jobs in this country--legislation that the left flank of their party demands. That is their response to the pleas of our constituents to do something about jobs--a proposal that nonpartisan analysts tell us could cost jobs.

But then again, these are the same Washington Democrats who have been at the helm of our economy for 5 1/2 years, the same ones who have been bragging about a recovery for the past 4.

We learned this morning the economy grew by just 0.1 percent--0.1 percent. So I can assure you that if this is the Democrats' idea of a recovery, the people in my State at least are not terribly impressed. They are ready for new ideas. They are ready to turn the page from the liberal playbook that just has not worked.

It is clearer every day that the DC liberal establishment is completely out of ideas. They do not even pretend to be serious about jobs anymore. The clearest proof of that is today's vote--on a bill that could cost about 17,000 jobs in Kentucky alone, and potentially as many as a million nationwide.

But Senate Democrats do not seem to care. They do not seem to care that about 6 in 10 Americans oppose a bill like this if--if--it means losing hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Washington Democrats' true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy--not helping the middle class.

They seem to think they can coast on talking points and stale ideas and that the American people have not been paying attention to their recent dismal record at actually helping the people they claim to care about.

They seem to think people will not notice that time and time and time again they have ended up making things harder for the people they claim they want to help.

But the American people see through that game. It is crystal clear from new polling that we have seen this week.

People realize the Washington liberal establishment is just out of energy and out of ideas. If they did not realize it before this year, they got confirmation of it when Senate Democrats effectively admitted that their so-called agenda for the rest of the year was drafted by campaign staffers.

In short, Washington Democrats are just not serious about helping the middle class. That helps explain why they would even consider legislation that we all know could cost up to a million jobs at a time when Americans need those jobs more than ever.

It helps explain why satisfying their leftwing patrons has become a more urgent priority than helping to create the kind of well-paying middle-class jobs our country needs.

I think our constituents deserve a lot better than what they have been getting this year from Democrats who control the Senate. They are already struggling under the weight of Washington Democrats' last ideological adventure--ObamaCare.

Washington Democrats promised the Sun and the Moon to sell that law, and then just rammed it through anyway when Americans refused to buy what they were selling.

Washington Democrats told us ObamaCare would lower costs, but polls show that nearly twice as many people believe the government is adding secret mind-control technology to our TVs as believe the law is actually decreasing health care costs.

Washington Democrats promised Americans that they could keep their plans if they liked them too. As we know, that turned out to be the ``Lie of the Year.''

Washington Democrats downplayed ObamaCare's negative impact on jobs, just as they are doing with this legislation we will consider later today.

Yet the government's own nonpartisan analysis shows that ObamaCare will effectively drive 2.5 million people out of the American workforce. We are already seeing the effects in Kentucky, where hospitals are laying off workers and cutting salaries because of the impact of this law.

One of the largest health care systems in the State recently let go nearly 500 employees, and its CEO stated that ObamaCare was a factor in that decision. The head of another community hospital in Glasgow, KY, also said that ObamaCare was a factor in his hospital's recent decision to reduce salaries and cut as many as 49 employees.

It is happening at other businesses too.

As a result of ObamaCare, a company in Kentucky with 8,000 employees was forced to cut part-time workers' hours to below 30 hours a week. That was a difficult decision--one that particular company, like so many others, never wanted to make because of the impact it will have on its own employees, but one that it felt was necessary to comply with ObamaCare.

I recently read a story about Paul Deskins, who runs an auto dealership in Pikeville with about 50 employees. Paul says that ObamaCare might force him to reduce his workforce or sell his body shop altogether. ``We were hoping that Obama thing would go away,'' he said. Millions of Americans feel the same way.

Washington Democrats promised this law would help the little guy, but it ended up hurting many of the people it purported to help.

We are seeing the same thing with the legislation before us today. Six in 10 Americans do not want a policy like this if--if--it costs jobs. No matter how Senate Democrats try to spin their support for this bill, the bottom line is this: It could cost up to 1 million American jobs--17,000 of those jobs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. That is really the opposite of what Americans expect us to do on jobs.

So it is time for Washington Democrats to drop the tired ideological approach that has failed so miserably the last 5 1/2 years. It is time for them to work with Republicans to boost job creation and start helping the middle class. That has been Republicans' focus all along, and it is about time Washington Democrats joined us in working for the middle class too.