THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 129
(House of Representatives - September 10, 2014)

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[Pages H7420-H7424]
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                         THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2013, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Pocan) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Speaker, I am here on behalf of the Progressive 
Caucus. And I will be joined by some other members of the Progressive 
Caucus to talk about issues that are important to this country and 
issues that are important to have a debate about in public.
  This is our first week back. After 5 weeks of being in our home 
districts, we have a lot to get done in this Congress. And so far this 
week, we have not exactly risen to the occasion. We have important 
things to do regarding the continuing resolution. We have important 
things to do regarding situations overseas. We have important 
legislation that this Congress simply has not gotten done. And, 
instead, another week has gone by without addressing some of the most 
important issues of the day.
  One of those issues that, I think, is front and center in people's 
minds is what is going on overseas, what is going on with ISIL in Iraq, 
perhaps in Syria, and what does that mean for the American people.
  And I am here today asking many of the questions that I get from 
people in the district. The President is going to address the Nation 
this evening, and he is going to give us his vision for where he thinks 
this country should go. And I am asking the President to please come to 
Congress before military action is taken against ISIL because it is so 
important that we are a part of this debate. We are the closest to the 
people in this country, and Congress needs to be involved. And I have 
some questions that I would like to see Members of Congress debate and 
the President help us address as we decide this extremely important 
  I want to give props to Rachel Maddow who, last night, I thought did 
an excellent job on her program in looking at some of the questions 
that we should be debating in this body to make sure that we are doing 
the right thing by getting involved and that we have got the thought 
ahead of time going into it, unlike I think what we have done 
previously when we have gone into Iraq, as a country.
  So these are some of the questions that we would like to have 
answered and we would like to have assistance with. One, why should the 
President seek congressional authorization and debate for military 
action against ISIL? Well, for one, it is in the Constitution. The 
Constitution, article I, section 8: ``The Congress shall have power to 
declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules 
concerning captures on land and water; to raise and support armies, but 
no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than 2 
  Directly in our United States Constitution is the power that this 
body, Congress, has to be involved if we are going to get involved in 
what would essentially be seen as war. And I think the debate that we 
have to have is, what are we looking at as we look at the situation in 
Iraq and perhaps in Syria.
  John Nichols from The Nation magazine wrote: ``It is a healthy 
respect for the complex geopolitics of the region, combined with a 
regard for the wisdom of the system of checks and balances and the 
principles of advice and consent outlined in the US Constitution'' that 
we have a say. Those are the words of John Nichols.
  This Congress, in July, before we left to go back to our districts, 
voted 370-40 for H. Con. Res. 105. We don't get many 370-40 votes in 
this House. It was a bipartisan resolution. It had overwhelming support 
and said: ``The President shall not deploy or maintain United States 
Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific 
statutory authorization.''
  That is the resolution that was passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan 
way by this body just weeks ago. We are facing these questions today. 
And the President is going to present to the Nation this evening 
exactly what he would like to see us do and hopefully will let the 
Congress have a say in it because, clearly, the situation has 
escalated. It needs a debate.
  The beheadings have certainly caught the attention of the country, 
but we want to make sure that attention is on our behalf, not the 
attention of someone who did that to try to provoke a reaction, and 
that we don't fall into the hands of doing the reaction that some 
people would hope that we would do to engage in a region that could be 
very complex.
  And after this country has had so many unfortunate failures in Iraq--
twice in my adult lifetime we have gone into this region, with very 
limited success, and we have gone into Afghanistan--we owe it to the 
American people, to our veterans, our servicemen and -women and their 
families, those who have gone in and put their lives at risk following 
9/11, to have this rigorous debate in this very body before us.
  This is a complex situation. But given the failures that we have had 
previously in going into Iraq--whether it be the lack of debate, the 
lack of buy-in from other nations and other partners specifically in 
the region and, quite honestly, the faulty intelligence that we had or 
that were told at the time--it has put us in a bad situation in the 
past in this region.
  In fact, one of the reasons we have to have this debate is there are 
a number of Members who are right now writing authorizations for us to 
go in. In fact, there is one from the gentleman from Virginia, 
Representative Frank Wolf, that would essentially be an Authorization 
for Use of Military Force that could authorize force virtually 
anywhere, with no expiration date and no specific targets.
  And I can tell you, when I talk to people across Wisconsin, when I 
talk to my colleagues in this room and they talk to their constituents, 
I think people want better answers than that. I know a year ago, when 
we had the debate about whether or not we would get involved in Syria, 
within 2 weeks in my district, I received 2,200 responses, 97 percent 
to 3 percent who were leery of us getting involved in Syria. And while 
the situation is different from a year ago and is even a 
situation different from a month ago, I think the public still has 
questions, certainly questions that we need to debate in this body. So 
we need to have that debate in Congress.

  What do we want from the President in a new authorization? Well, I 
think there are three things that should be in that. One is that 
Congress has a say. Again, we have the ability to have a vote. We are 
elected and accountable to our districts, and these decisions are not 
just made behind closed doors without the advice and consent of 
Congress. We will have a stronger effort if we have that public debate. 
So that is one. Two, that we have a narrow scope. We simply can't bomb 
our way into success.
  And let me just go over a little bit of the timeline just in the very 
few months since ISIL has been out there.

[[Page H7421]]

Let me just talk a little bit about that timeline. Back on June 16 of 
this year, the administration announced it was sending 275 military 
personnel to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Three days later, 
they announced that 300 military advisers would collaborate and train 
Iraqi forces--3 days later. On June 30, the administration announced 
the deployment of 200 more troops to Iraq. On August 7, the President 
authorized airstrikes in Iraq. On the 12th of August, the 
administration announced 130 additional U.S. military personnel to 
assess the scope of the humanitarian mission. On the 26th of August, 
the President authorized surveillance flights over Syria. On September 
2, the administration announced the deployment of 350 additional 
military personnel to Iraq, bringing our total to 1,100 U.S. troops now 
deployed in Iraq. And in the last month alone, there have been 153 
airstrikes in Iraq. Just in the little bit of time that has passed, 
that is what we have seen happen. And I think we need to be very 
specific in the limited scope of what that is going to be so we don't 
have mission creep leading us into perhaps more involvement than we 
thought was going to happen in the beginning.
  And third, I think--and others that I talk to think--it is important 
that we go in with a coalition, that we are not doing this either alone 
or largely alone and that we are doing this with partners from the 
region. Right now, there are 10 other countries that I know of that are 
involved in saying that they will commit to help work with us. But we 
need to build a moderate Sunni support and buy-in from some of the Arab 
States specifically to help us in this region because right now, this 
is a regional situation, and we need to have partners within that 
region to make sure that we can accomplish any goals.
  There are many questions that we continue to have, and I think there 
are many about what that strike would look like, what exactly does it 
mean to have that involvement.
  I just mentioned who are some of the allies that we are going to 
have. But what are some of our short-term goals? What do we expect to 
accomplish when we decide that we are going in? What would we carry out 
in military action? It is one thing to say that we are not going to 
have boots on the ground, but clearly, we are having pilots in the sky.
  Right now, we are using U.S. attack aircraft, fighter aircraft, and 
drone aircraft to do attacks within that region. So you already have a 
presence that--I don't like the term ``boots on the ground,'' because 
these are people with families, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, 
brothers and sisters that we have who are overseas, and we need to know 
exactly what that means.
  There has been potentially a request to aid some of the moderate 
Syrian rebels that may come out of the conversations. And, once again, 
I think there are questions that this body has to have a debate on. 
Steven Sotloff, the journalist, who was the second person that was 
beheaded, that we have followed very closely, as an American citizen, 
his family recently said that it was moderate Syrian rebels who 
essentially sold access to ISIL to get Steve Sotloff. And who is it 
that we are going to provide assistance to? And what does that 
assistance mean? And who are the people that we can potentially be 
doing that for?
  What is our long-term commitment to military action? Now, if we would 
have asked this question years ago when we first looked at Iraq and 
Afghanistan, I don't think anyone would have expected to hear a 13-year 
commitment to Afghanistan. More than 2,000 Americans have been killed 
in Afghanistan and more than 4,000 in Iraq. The cost has been estimated 
to be 4 to $6 trillion in that region just since that last action was 
called years ago. And, as I mentioned, there have been 153 airstrikes 
just in the last month. How many more airstrikes will it take to say 
that that is enough? So we need to have more meat put onto this to have 
an idea of what that involvement is if we are going to be authorizing 
  And finally, the question I would ask is: How do we define mission 
accomplished? What is the end goal that we are going to have? And where 
does that end happen? I certainly hope the end goal is not flying in 
military gear on an aircraft carrier with a banner behind it that says 
``Mission Accomplished.'' Because we all know, there was no mission 
accomplished at that time. We need to have clear and definite goals of 
what it means to defeat ISIL and to make sure that that region can have 
some stability after the instability of so long that it has had.
  So, in conclusion, the President has a constitutional obligation, I 
feel, to work with Congress before engaging in extended military 
operations. The public is still very war-weary. And while right now, 
polls may say people think we should get involved in Iraq and Syria 
with limited airstrikes, we have to have that much longer debate.
  Clearly, the public beheadings of two American citizens has raised 
the ire of the American people and I think many in Congress. It is a 
different situation than it was a year ago. It is a different situation 
than it was a month ago. But at the same time, we have got to be sure 
that we are not falling into doing something that could be 
counterproductive because, clearly, ISIL did that to provoke a 
reaction, and I think that needs to be a part of the debate we have.
  After being entangled in a global conflict for 13 years, we owe it to 
the American people and to the servicemen and -women and their families 
and the veterans who have already made tremendous sacrifices and the 
support of our country that we have a transparent and thorough debate 
on any action that would happen with ISIL in Syria or Iraq.
  So those are my hopes. Those are my questions. I am looking forward 
to hearing the President tonight, and I am hoping that this body will 
be able to have that full debate so we know everything that we can 
possibly have for information prior to continuing and perhaps enhancing 
any actions there.

                              {time}  1715

  Now, I am very proud to be joined by other members of the Progressive 
Caucus. We have one of the most senior Members of this body, who has 
become a mentor and a friend to me, and I would like to yield to the 
gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel).
  Mr. RANGEL. Mr. Speaker, let me thank you sincerely.
  It looks like it is going to be pretty lonesome in this House. I have 
been looking since I have returned from the recess to see how a nation 
that is about to embark on another intrusion, military intrusion, what 
concerns we would have to have and to explain when we go home and tell 
our constituents that we have done this because of you, that your 
Nation's security was threatened.
  Now, I agree with the gentleman that when we see these atrocities 
committed something should be done, but by us? Haven't we suffered 
enough? Haven't we sacrificed enough?
  So few Members of Congress have to attend the funerals of those 
dedicated men and women. Less than 1 percent are making this sacrifice. 
There is no financial sacrifice being made, no tax put on the war, and 
people think that people are volunteering to put themselves in danger. 
Well, the families don't always feel the same way about it. And I have 
been involved in being a part of getting citizenship for people who 
have come to this country and enlisted and fought and died for this 
country, and I give the family a little flag.
  Now, it wasn't too long ago that America was under the impression 
that enough is enough. We have lost. We have sacrificed enough. We have 
got to get Iraq on its feet, help stabilize the government, and then we 
will get on and deal with Syria.
  Now, in the old days, when I was in the Army, we knew who the enemy 
was. They had uniforms. They had flags. But as I understand, the fluid 
situation that came to our intelligence during the recent recess, it 
seems as though ISIS is worse than al Qaeda and all the other evil 
terrorists that we have been involved with and that now some of them 
have acquired weapons that we have given to some of the Arab cults that 
were our friends, but somehow the weapons have been taken and are in 
the hands of people that I am not certain which ones are our friends.
  Now, I know the President has said no boots on the ground. I don't 
know what that really means, that we don't expect to lose any American 
lives. I don't know whether that means that only drones will be used 
and that we can rest assured that no American in

[[Page H7422]]

uniform is going to be fighting anybody in that part of the world.
  But since the threat to our national security appears to be so 
uncertain, and since the President believes he already has the power 
constitutionally to enter into this stage of engagement with this 
threat to our national security, and since I know that, polls 
notwithstanding, very few Americans are going to have a problem going 
to sleep tonight thinking about ISIS, it would seem to me that one of 
the ways that we could discuss and debate this is a part of what I was 
saying when I introduced the draft bill.
  I don't want to see our young people having to serve in the military. 
I think it is good to have some type of public national service, but I 
don't think people should be trained to kill. But I know one thing. If 
the security of this great Nation is at risk, it shouldn't be less than 
1 percent of America that has to be placed in harm's way.
  So, even though most of the lives we lost started off with not troops 
going in initially, but consultants, advisors, and those that are going 
to instruct our friends to defend themselves, but ultimately the number 
gets larger and larger and larger. So I am going to submit some kind of 
way that one criteria that Members can use when going back home when 
their voters ask, ``Well, what was it that impressed you so much after 
all our country has suffered in getting involved, all the trillions of 
dollars, the 6,000 lives, what did they say that caused you to believe 
that our Nation was threatened?'' you might say that we had attached to 
that a draft bill, and we said that if it appeared as though our Nation 
was going to embark on a military excursion in another country, every 
American must be registered between certain ages, men and women, if 
they are able, to say our security has been threatened, and we should 
be proud as Americans to say that that is the reason why we have done 
  I bet you one thing. If that is what we were talking about this 
recess, neither party would be anxious not to have a vote on this, and 
we wouldn't be getting out of here tomorrow or the next day or the day 
after if we have to explain why someone's son, husband, or brother or 
sister may have to be involved in Selective Service because we felt in 
our hearts that our Nation's security was threatened.
  So I, like you, want to hear what the President has to say. When 
Republicans come to the floor and say they are going to join with 
Democrats to support the President, that is something I haven't heard 
of in years. So I do hope that the President is able to bring us 
together with a better understanding as to we as Members of Congress 
and Representatives of the Nation's citizens and noncitizens, that we 
can come together, not as Republicans and Democrats, but as Members of 
the House of Representatives where the people govern. And all of us 
would feel better in knowing it is not an easy choice, but we are 
convinced that it was the best choice.
  So thank you so much for taking the time out, and I only hope that 
435 of our Members would be doing the same thing so I can leave more 
secure in knowing that I have done the right thing. Thank you so much 
for the opportunity.
  Mr. POCAN. Representative Rangel, you have been an outspoken advocate 
for equality within the draft, making sure that everyone understands 
that there is an expense when we go into war. As someone who has had 
several nephews personally get involved and plenty of constituents, 
those decisions are something that are mighty, and this body has to 
have that as part of that debate, and that is why we should have that 
debate. Thank you so much for your time and your efforts.
  One of the other issues that is extremely important that this body 
get done before we leave is addressing income inequality and addressing 
how we can best help those who need help the most, those who are 
aspiring to be in the middle class and helping the middle class. One of 
the very best ways and one of the priorities of the Democrats in this 
House is to give America a raise, to raise the minimum wage, through a 
bill that we have, to $10.10, to make sure that people have more money 
in their pockets. When that money is in their pockets, they will spend 
it in the community, and that will lift the economy and help create 
more jobs. It is exactly what we need right now.
  For too long, we have not raised the minimum wage. If the minimum 
wage were the same and kept up with inflation from 1967, it would be 
well over $10.60 an hour. And we are not. We are at a much lower rate, 
and we need to have that.
  One of my colleagues from California has been an outspoken advocate 
for raising the minimum wage, and I would love to, on behalf of the 
Progressive Caucus, yield to my colleague from the great 
State of California, Mr. Alan Lowenthal.

 =========================== NOTE =========================== 

  September 10, 2014, on page H7422, the following appeared: 
raising the minimum wage, and I yield some time to my colleague 
from thegreat State of California, Mr. ALAN LOWENTHAL.
  The online version should be corrected to read: raising the 
minimum wage, and I would love to, on behalf of the Progressive 
Caucus, yield to my colleague from the great State of 
California, Mr. ALAN LOWENTHAL.

 ========================= END NOTE ========================= 

  Mr. LOWENTHAL. Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about working families, 
and I will be talking about the minimum wage.
  I just want to preface that it was an honor to listen to Congressman 
Rangel really talk about what is probably the most important issue 
before us in terms of how we as a deliberative body deal with issues of 
war and peace and where our Nation is going. I, too, hope that we have, 
as this goes on, a really thoughtful discussion as you have laid out 
for us tonight. And I hope that we follow up with what the President 
says later on tonight and that, when we reconvene, we do talk about 
this in a very, very thoughtful, thoughtful way.
  But I am also concerned about how working families and individuals 
are struggling to make a living on our current minimum wage of $7.25. 
That is why I think Congressman Pocan and my colleagues and I are 
discussing this issue. It is a key component of raising this minimum 
wage, of closing the opportunity gap and building an economy that works 
for our working families.
  We spend a lot of time in this body talking about building the 
economy. We spend time discussing tax breaks for large corporations. 
But really what we should be about is: How do we rebuild the middle 
class? How do we give people an opportunity to join the middle class? 
Raising the minimum wage is a critical component.
  By raising it from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, we would lift 900,000 
Americans out of poverty. Do we raise it into wealth? No. We just take 
the first step. And this is a minimum step. It would raise it for 28 
million people, including more than--in my home State, 2.7 million 
Californians live below the poverty level, working Californians, we are 
talking about, live below.
  Who are they? Seventy percent of them are women. The average age is 
not as it is often told to us, young people, 18 to 25. We are talking 
about the average age of a person on minimum wage is 35 years of age. 
That is a significant year.
  I think I meant to say 1.3 million Californians in my State. It is 
going to raise it for 2.7 million, and of those, almost a million and a 
half are women who would be impacted by an increase.
  This is a bill we are talking about that is a bill that was put forth 
by Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman George Miller, and it is going to 
go have a tremendous impact upon job growth. Sometimes we hear, well, 
if you raise the minimum wage, we are going to lose jobs. But if we 
really get through the scare tactics, we will listen to what people who 
are experts and who have studied the issue have said, that a recent 
analysis by the Economic Policy Institute has calculated that a higher 
minimum wage within 3 years creates 85,000 new jobs and it has a boost 
of almost $22 billion into the economy.
  So, when we raise the minimum wage, we are talking about protecting 
families, protecting individuals. We as a Congress have, I think, a 
responsibility to support those families who are the foundation of our 
workforce. And now is not time to turn our backs on the people who are 
raising the next generation. We are talking about working families. We 
need to help the men, women, and children who provide the foundation 
for our economy and our country, who are raising the next generation.
  If we cannot provide an adequate wage for Americans who are living in 
poverty and working, why are we here? What is our role? Our role, I 
think, is to listen to those working Americans who are desperately 
trying to make ends meet, who work two and three jobs, and say: We hear 
you; it makes economic sense for the Nation; we will support you. And 
we should not leave this Congress until we take the first

[[Page H7423]]

step, and that is to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.

                              {time}  1730

  It is a minimum raise of the minimum wage.
  So with that, I thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak.
  Mr. POCAN. If I could just ask you, gentlemen, one question--and I 
will go to Mr. Rangel again for a comment.
  Let me ask you a question. The leadership in this House, the 
Republican leadership, has refused to schedule a bill to raise the 
minimum wage, and we have one other device to do that called the 
discharge petition.
  Mr. POCAN. I would like to ask the gentleman if you signed the 
discharge petition so that we can force a vote in this House to raise 
the minimum wage in the remaining weeks we have before we finish the 
session for the year.
  Mr. LOWENTHAL. Absolutely would I sign a discharge petition, one of 
the most important things that we can do.
  Mr. POCAN. And we have done that.
  Mr. LOWENTHAL. All we are asking for is a right to vote.
  I still remember when the President came, in his State of the Union 
speech, and it was really just after--in my first year here in the 
Congress and he was talking about the horrible episode that happened at 
Sandy Hook and said, ``Give the people the vote. Just give us a vote.''
  That is all we are asking our Republican colleagues. Let us vote on 
raising the minimum wage. That is all. That is the democratic way and 
``democratic'' with a small D. That is the American way. Give the 
people a vote.
  Mr. POCAN. Again, thank you, Mr. Lowenthal.
  Because that is the problem--we have been told the Speaker won't 
schedule the vote, but there are other ways. Every single Member of 
this body can sign a discharge petition, and if we get a majority of 
us, 218 of us, to sign that, it will come to this body. So there are no 
excuses not to get this done.
  I would like to yield to my good friend from New York, Mr. Charlie 
  Mr. RANGEL. We were talking about war and peace. To me, we are still 
talking about a moral issue.
  Here in this great Nation, the richest in the world, we are asking 
people to work 40 hours, many without sick leave, many without 
vacations or vacation pay, and--at the end of the day--end up in 
poverty. There is something terribly wrong with that picture.
  It seems to me that it goes beyond just doing the right and the moral 
thing. Even churches and synagogues and mosques should recognize that 
their membership is going down because you can't pay the rent, buy the 
food, and still give your money to the religious institutions.
  Beyond that, what are they going to do with the money? I will tell 
you: they are going to be able to get nutritional diets for their kids. 
They will be able to buy clothes for their kids. They can aspire that 
their kids get a better education and be able to get higher jobs and 
have higher ambitions.
  They can make America more productive because they have more self-
esteem because being poor is not the worst thing in the world, if you 
feel that you can come out of that poverty and you have an opportunity 
to do it.
  There is something worse going on in this country today. I was 
privileged years ago to sponsor a bill that we all know is the earned 
income tax credit, and the earned income tax credit says this shouldn't 
happen. If you have got a family and, after you follow the Federal 
formula, you are still poor, why, we will give you a check. You won't 
owe taxes; we will give you a refundable check.
  Guess what? Some of the people that are hiring these people at very 
low wages also hire accountants that advise the potential applicant how 
to become eligible for the earned income tax credit. So they give a 
little bit, the government gives a little bit, and the people still end 
up poor.
  It just seems to me this is not a Democratic issue; it is not a 
Republican issue. It is an issue of: What does America stand for? Where 
is the equity involved if we are not going to allow our country to be 
pumped up by the middle class people who made this country great?
  We are not a country of rich and poor folks. It is the middle class 
that have demands, that want to go to the local store, so that they can 
sell and hire people and have communities that feel proud about 
  I know one thing: with the rents that are going up in communities all 
over this country and people who used to consider themselves middle 
class, you miss one or two payments of your rent--and Judge Judy 
doesn't want to ask you what were the circumstances.
  If you didn't pay your rent, you are going to get evicted. If you 
don't have resources, if you have no place to go, you can go from a 
plateau that you thought was middle class into a homeless shelter.
  Getting out of that situation and seeking employment is almost 
impossible. How much does it cost? Hundreds of billions of dollars in 
social costs because you wouldn't give Americans an opportunity to earn 
a living wage.
  So it is lonely down here with you guys, but I do hope before we 
leave that we can have not just Democrats, but all of the Members be 
able to go back home and say, ``I was late getting this started, but we 
do have the issues, and we are going to make you proud.''
  Thank you so much for taking the time to allow us to express what we 
know most people believe, but politically, they can't support.
  Mr. POCAN. Again, thank you, Mr. Rangel.
  One of the things I look at--it is pretty simple math to someone like 
me, coming from America's heartland, when productivity is going up and 
wages are flat, the money is going somewhere.
  In 1988, the average CEO made 40 times the lowest-paid employee. Now, 
it is 354 times the lowest-paid employee. Now, if you put extra money 
in the pockets through raising the minimum wage of someone who is in 
the middle class or aspiring to be in the middle class, it is going to 
go back into the economy. If they can afford a long weekend vacation to 
the Wisconsin Dells in my area, that helps boost the economy, helps 
create jobs--but you know what? That CEO can't take 354 vacations to 
make up for it.
  Clearly, when the money goes into the pockets of those who need it 
the most, it is going to go instantly into the economy, help create 
jobs, and help do everything that we need to, to stimulate the economy 
to the point that we can be as great as we possibly can be.
  To me, it is a no-brainer. I think to many of the constituents I talk 
to it is a no-brainer.
  You are very articulate in talking about the troubles that people go 
through in trying to just get by. It is another thing this body simply 
has to take up before we leave.
  If we don't take this up before November, quite honestly, those who 
didn't try to take it up shouldn't come back because we need people who 
will take it up because it is the will of the people. Democrats, 
Independents, and even Republicans are looking at this as an issue that 
is important and has to happen.
  Again, thank you so much for all your work on this for so many years. 
Alan Lowenthal and I are freshman here. We are the newbies. We are 
taking up the fight, but you have been doing it for so many years and 
been a mentor to so many of us. Again, thank you, Mr. Rangel, and thank 
you, Mr. Lowenthal.

  Mr. LOWENTHAL. Thank you very, very much.
  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Lowenthal went through all the numbers for the State 
of California. It has the same effect in my State of Wisconsin. When 
you look at it, if you raise that minimum wage to $10.10, as the bill 
from Senator Harkin does and the one that Representative George Miller 
from California has introduced in this body, not only is it 28 million 
people in this country that will get a raise, but it is half a million 
people just in my home State of Wisconsin, a half million people.
  One of the things that I have heard sometimes when you talk to 
people, they say, ``If you raise the minimum wage, all you are doing is 
giving extra pocket money to teenagers who are living with their 
  Well, that is one of the great myths that is out there because here 
is the reality: the average age of a minimum wage worker is 35 years 
old. When you look at the exact breakout of who it is, 90 percent are 
over 20 years old, and

[[Page H7424]]

more than half of them are older than 25 years old.
  You are not talking about a teenager living at home. You are talking 
about people who are living independently in the community, trying to 
get by on $7.35 an hour or close to $15,000 a year, in a job that often 
has no benefits--health benefits, pension, et cetera.
  Fifty-five percent of the people on minimum wage are working full 
time. Forty-four percent have some type of college education, an 
associate degree or bachelor's degree or other higher education. That 
is the reality of the minimum wage worker in this country. It is not 
the myth of a teenager living at home, looking for some pocket money.
  These are hardworking people trying to get by, often on two or three 
jobs, without the benefits. Without that ability, if they miss their 
rent, they get evicted, and then they are homeless. As Mr. Rangel said, 
these are some of the same people that then show up on our health plans 
that States provide for being low-income.
  So you know who then is subsidizing their salaries? We all are. Every 
single individual who is a taxpayer pays into those programs. While 
that employer may not offer a wage that they can live on, we all 
subsidize it, so that they can actually get something as basic as 
health care.
  So there is a real need to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act that is 
proposed. We have tried and tried in this body to get a vote on it. We 
have signed a discharge petition. Virtually every Democrat in the House 
of Representatives has signed that.
  We need those Republicans, especially those Republicans who are on 
record supporting a minimum wage, to also sign that, so we can get a 
vote before we leave in a few weeks, before the November elections, 
before the end of the year--because I think a question that I would 
want to ask my Representative when I see them in the community in the 
coming weeks before the election is: What have they done to help make 
the middle class stronger? What have they done to help people who are 
aspiring to be in the minimum class? What have we got done in Congress?
  There was a Congress in 1948 that was called the do-nothing Congress 
because they got so little done. The first year of that session, they 
passed 350 bills. Last year, this body passed 88.
  Here we are sitting another week back in Congress, and we haven't 
raised the minimum wage, we haven't passed equal pay for equal work so 
that women make just as much as men do, and we haven't done anything 
about the affordability of higher education, allowing students to 
refinance their loans.
  These are simple issues that aren't partisan issues. They are not 
Democratic/Republican. They are not liberal/conservative. They are 
about whether or not you are fighting for the middle class and those 
who aspire to be in the middle class or whether you are here trying to 
help out the special interests and the lobbyists who represent the 
special interests. It is really that simple.
  So we need to pass a raise for the American people. That means you 
pass an increase in the minimum wage. As other Members have said, it 
will lift so many people out of poverty and give a raise to so many 
people to help stimulate the economy.
  So the Progressive Caucus is fighting each and every single day while 
we are here for a variety of issues: raising the minimum wage, trying 
to stop wage theft in this country, trying to extend unemployment 
insurance so that everyone who is out of work can still get some 
benefits while they are looking for work so that they can get that job. 
We all know the best social program is a job, and we want to make sure 
that everyone can get that job.
  We need to continue to do the things that Congress needs to get done 
and we have not gotten done. So the minimum wage is one issue that we 
wanted to talk about today.
  As we have the President speaking to us this evening, we want to make 
sure that this body has a very full and rich debate. As we passed in a 
bipartisan way, 370-40, we need to have a real debate and have real 
questions answered before we get involved, so that we never again have 
what happened the last time we got involved in Iraq because we are back 
again. There was no ``mission accomplished.'' A banner and a fly-in in 
military gear is not a successful end to an involvement.
  We need to make sure whatever we do this time is thoughtful, done 
with consultation of Congress, with narrow scope, and with a 
partnership with other nations specifically in the region to make sure 
that we are doing this not alone or not largely alone.
  With that, Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Caucus appreciates this time 
this evening, and I yield back the balance of my time.