After offering an agenda to boost the middle class in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama brought a joint session of Congress to its collective feet today in Washington with the story of an Army Ranger severely wounded in Afghanistan.
The President first called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour after promising an executive order to the same where he could. He implored the members of pay women equally as men for the same work. He asked for job training so people can have skilled jobs to lift them out of poverty.
Applause did not come from all members when he made those suggestions as well as talking about people helped by the Affordable Care Act, but when he told the story of Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, everyone exploded in unison with respect to the soldier’s embodiment of American values.
“Cory Remsburg never gives up and he does not quit,” the President said. “Men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) was one of the people cheering when the President finished praising Remsburg’s grit. That was not the first time of the evening Schneider and his colleagues gave Remsburg a standing ovation.
“When we saw him enter the room, even before the President was there, he got a standing ovation, before anyone knew his story,” Schneider said. Seeing a wounded member of the military was enough.
The North Shore Congressman felt Remsburg personified much of the President’s call to action. “It’s going to take hard work to fix the economy or pass immigration reform,” Schneider said. “If we can find common ground we can make a lot of progress.”
When the President asked Congress to increase the minimum wage, he made a simple argument. “No one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said. He challenged the members on wage earned by women as well. “They (women) still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.”
Schneider voted in favor of raising the minimum wage and is a cosponsor and supporter of legislation to ensure paycheck fairness. He echoed the President’s reasoning on the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work. “Two people doing the same work should receive the same wage and pay,” Schneider said.
The President also called for job training which will help Americans find higher paying employment. “I’ve asked Vice President (Joe) Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now,” the President said.
When it comes to job training to prepare people to move into the middle class with skilled jobs, Schneider has already introduced legislation to foster that effort with his America Works Act and Learning Education Achieving and Retraining for the Nation Act (LEARN). He is thrilled Biden will be leading the effort and hopes he can help build support of both Republicans and Democrats.
“They (his two bills) have bipartisan support,” Schneider said. “I’ve been working very hard with Republicans to build support and I will continue to do that.” He considers passing legislation to spur the economy and with it job growth along with immigration reform key issues for the rest of the Congressional session.