Yesterday afternoon I joined my House and Senate colleagues and hundreds of supporters at a rally to celebrate the first increase in the federal minimum wage in ten years! The scene at Upper Senate Park on the Capitol grounds was joyful, and well it should be. After being thwarted by Congressional Republicans for ten frustrating years, nearly 13 million hard-working Americans will benefit from this federal minimum wage increase.

Beginning yesterday the minimum wage will rise from $5.15 to $5.85, followed by a second increase to $6.55, on July 24, 2008, and the final increase, to $7.25, occurs on July 24, 2009. The minimum wage increase was combined with a $4.84 billion package of assistance to small businesses to encourage employment and create jobs. While California already enjoys a higher state minimum wage of $7.50, this increase in the federal minimum wage will help spread the economic benefits of a higher wages across the country and it will also help prevent other states from undercutting California’s state minimum wage requirements.

Raising the minimum wage is just one of many efforts by the Democratic Majority in Congress to strengthen our economy and provide more opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. I’m also proud of our ongoing work to reduce the cost of college, increase energy efficiency and alternative fuel use, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and increase health coverage for millions of uninsured kids. Rest assured that despite continued resistance from Congressional Republicans and the Bush Administration, the Democratic Congress will continue our fight for the American people as we work to move our country in a new direction.