Hillary Clinton: A Lifetime Champion of Income Opportunity
Working to raise the minimum wage. Throughout her Senate career, Hillary Clinton was a staunch supporter of increasing the minimum wage and voted repeatedly to protect and increase it. She was an original cosponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, and authored the 2006 and 2007 Standing with Minimum Wage Earners Act to tie Congressional salary increases to an increase in the minimum wage. As she said at the time, her bill would have ensured “that every time Congress gives itself a raise in the future that Americans get a raise too. This is the right and fair thing to do for hardworking Americans.”
Advocating for out-of-work Americans. Hillary Clinton has a record of working across the aisle to help out-of-work Americans. In what the New York Times called “a case study of how legislative objectives can trump ideology,” Clinton teamed up with Republican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma at the beginning of 2003 “to help deliver added unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.” Senator Clinton continued fighting to extend unemployment benefits for Americans who were out of work, cosponsoring amendments and bills to extend benefits through the end of 2003 and into 2004, and voting to provide emergency unemployment benefits during the 2008 financial crisis.
Getting equal pay for equal work. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which Hillary Clinton introduced in 2005 and 2007, would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to prevent employer retaliation against workers who claim wage discrimination, or workers who inquire about or discuss their wages. This concept was adopted, in part, by President Obama’s April 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages. Clinton also cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which became the first law signed by President Obama. The Act, which expanded workers’ rights to take pay discrimination issues to court, was also introduced in 2007 and was cosponsored by Clinton.
Fighting for middle-class tax cuts. As a Senator, Hillary Clinton supported progressive tax policies that required millionaires to pay their fair share. She opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and she supported a variety of middle-class tax cuts, including tax credits for student loan recipients, and keeping in place the tax cuts for those who make under $250,000 a year. Clinton has said “that inherited wealth and concentrated wealth is not good for America,” and she has consistently voted against repealing the estate tax on millionaires, doing so in 2001, 2002, and 2006.
Strengthening health care for millions of children. In the Senate, Hillary Clinton looked for ways to strengthen the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, introducing bills to allow states to expand the program that she helped create as First Lady. The program, created in 1997, has increased health coverage for millions of children in low-income and working families. Ted Kennedy, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said the program “wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Fighting poverty as a private citizen. Hillary’s first job out of law school was for the newly-formed Children’s Defense Fund, an organization she would later chair. The CDF has “partnered with numerous organizations and worked with policy makers to build bipartisan support to enact laws that have helped millions of children fulfill their potential and escape poverty because they received the health care, child care, nurturing, proper nutrition and education they deserve.” Today, as part of the Too Small to Fail Initiative to improve the health and well-being of children five and under, Hillary Clinton is working to close the “word gap” for kids in low-income families who often have smaller vocabularies than their classmates. Clinton points out that “this disadvantage leads to further disparities in achievement and success over time, from academic performance and persistence to earnings and family stability even 20 and 30 years later.”
Expanding access to early childhood education for children in lower-income families. Senator Clinton introduced the Ready to Learn Act with Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri to award competitive matching grants to schools, child care providers, and Head Start providers for voluntary full day pre-K for lower-income four-year olds. Clinton also joined with Bond on his Education Begins at Home Act to provide competitive grants for early childhood home visitation, including for families with English language learners. The Act also called for revisions to Early Head Start programs, including training in parenting skills and child development. Hillary Clinton also introduced her husband to the HIPPY program, which expanded early childhood education to economically disadvantaged families. As Newsweek reported in 1990, “the Clintons became enthusiastic supporters of the program, helping to sponsor and gain funding for programs throughout the state.” Newsweek also noted that, at the time, “Nineteen of the 33 HIPPY programs in the United States” were in Arkansas.
Strengthening healthcare for rural Arkansans. As the New York Times wrote in 1993, “Her public involvement in policy issues began only a few months after her husband was inaugurated to his first term as Governor on Jan. 10, 1979, when he appointed her to be the chairwoman of the 44-member Rural Health Advisory Committee. Her work with that board in developing programs to expand health care in the state’s isolated farm and mountain country began a career of committee work on health and education issues.” And as a board member of Arkansas Children’s Hospital she was credited with starting a process “that has trained a generation of pediatricians to work in poor rural areas, and has made emergency care available for children across the state through a network of ambulances and helicopters.”