Senate Republicans prevented a veterans’ jobs bill from coming to a vote today by forcing a budget point of order vote. Democrats came up 2 votes short of the 60 needed to defeat the GOP’s budget measure.
The Veterans Jobs Corps bill — which is part of President Obama’s push to secure jobs for veterans — would have provided $1 billion over five years to hire 20,000 young veterans for public lands jobs and prioritize vets for first responder jobs such as police, firefighter, or EMT. The measure would have also provided young vets access to the infrastructure with which to assist in job searches, such as access to computers, internet and career services advisers.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a vets group that supported the legislation, called the GOP move “a huge disappointment,” adding, “Today, politics won over helping vets.”
While only five Republicans voted with the Democrats to waive the GOP budget point of order measure, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) led the GOP opposition. “When we find ourselves in $16 trillion of debt and we pay for a five-year bill over 10 years, we make the problem worse,” he said.
However, Veterans Jobs Corps bill co-sponsor Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said on the Senate floor today that “this bill is fully paid for and does not violate pay-go rules.” (The New York Times said Murray’s aides say “say the program will be paid for by recovering more money from tax-delinquent Medicare providers and forcing big tax deadbeats to pay up before receiving passports.”)
Murray even tried to include most of the provisions of a competing Republican bill but Democrats still ran into opposition. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would block the measure until the Pakistani doctor that aided the CIA in looking for Osama bin Laden was freed, while Coburn claimed the bill would have no chance of passing the House so it wasn’t worth the effort.
“I’ve been surprised at the many obstacles and weird arguments that have been thrown at us,” Murray told the Washington Post.
The jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war vets, while steadily declining, is still higher than the national average, yet congressional Republicans remain “resolute in their commitment to deny the Democrats anything that looks like an accomplishment in an election year.”
In an editorial last weekend referring to today’s vote, the New York Times said, “We’ll know then whether good sense prevailed, or the wheels have come completely off the Congressional machine.” It looks like the Republicans have made sure of the latter.