WASHINGTON, September 23, 2012 — You think you’ve seen it all. That things can’t get any more cynical, but in Washington they can and they did. Last week thanks to the Republicans, Congress left town without passing a jobs bill that would have benefited our returning veterans. It was a slap in the face of the men and women who have put their lives on the line, but whom the Republicans thought not worth helping once they came home.
These are the same Republicans who wail and wring their hands on the floor of the Senate, bemoaning any cuts to the defense budget. These are the same Republicans who didn’t hesitate to send our troops into Iraq to fight a bogus war. These are the same Republicans who now thump their chests and bellow that we should consider sending our military into Iran, crushing their nuclear program in a preemptive strike.
But spend money on our vets who return from tours of duty overseas to help them get jobs? Never. And since it was President Obama’s bright idea: Never. Ever.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) went so far as to call the bill “crap” on the “Morning Joe Show.”
This is the same senator who had the chutzpah to rail against the bill on the Senate floor, shouting indignantly, “Where is our honor? Where is our valor? Where is our sacrifice?” Hard to believe he was exhorting the Senate to vote against our veterans, not rallying them to vote for our veterans. But he was.
Before proceeding, I should point out that there were five patriotic Republican Senators who broke with their Party and voted with the Democrats to pass this jobs for veterans bill. You should know their names because they deserve your thanks for standing up for our veterans and for standing against the shameful action of their Party: Senators Scott Brown, Massachusetts; Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, Maine; Dean Heller, Nevada; and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska.
As for the rest of the Republicans, the so-called super-patriots like John McCain and Lindsay Graham: How do you sleep at night? How can you live with yourself? How can you look yourself in the eye, assuming you have the moxie to even look in the mirror?
The Republicans ensured the bill would go down in defeat by preventing it from reaching the magic number of 60 votes that would have made it filibuster proof. Instead the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, S. 3457 went down 58-40, obviously having a majority, but that is not how the game is played anymore in the Senate. The majority does not rule.
Modeled on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corp that put thousand of people back to work in the Great Depression, the Veterans Jobs Corp Act would have created jobs for over 720,000 unemployed veterans, including the more than 225,000 post 9/11 vets, ranging from jobs in law enforcement to conservation work to national parks employment to firefighting.
The billion-dollar price tag spread out over the next five years was to be paid for by money recovered from tax-delinquent Medicare providers and forcing big tax deadbeats to pay up before receiving passports. Believe it or not, there is big money going after these guys.
Right now the unemployment numbers for veterans stands at nearly 11%, compared to 8.1% for the rest of the work force. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is the chief sponsor of the bill, explained the unemployment problem will only grow “as we draw down in Afghanistan, just like we have already drawn down in Iraq.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said, “Too often, on the day our service members are discharged, we as a nation pat them on their back for their service without also giving them a helping hand into the job market. This has to end.”
Not with this Congress, Senator.
The Republicans couldn’t wait to block the legislation, insisting it was too costly. I guess dying in Kandahar or being wounded in Afghanistan’s Valley of Death is not too costly. The fight against the bill was led by the usual obstructionists, Republican Senators Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Tom Coburn (Oka.) Coburn, who supposedly fancies himself the great watchdog of the government budget.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the largest organization composed of post 9/11veterans, appealed to the Senate to let the bill move forward. “Partisan bickering should never stand in the way of creating job opportunities for the New Greatest Generation, especially with a 10.9% unemployment rate,” said IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff.
And sadly, the blocking of the bill not only affects its passage now, but in the post-election lame duck session. The earliest it can brought back for consideration by the Senate is 2013, too late for too many of our vets.
But that was not the only insult our Senate delivered to our returning military. There is still another affront the Senate had up its sleeve. A bill called VOW to Hire Heroes Extension Act of 2012 (S. 3536), sponsored by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, would have extended to 2016 the time employers would be able to use tax credits (up to $9,600) in hiring our returning veterans.
So where did that bill end up this session? Back in the Finance Committee. However, the current VOW expires this year. So it is now too late. Sorry, vets. The Senators have more important things to do, like getting home and going to fundraisers, than helping you.
So is it any wonder that the Republicans during their convention didn’t salute the troops abroad and the veterans at home? Is it any wonder they didn’t say thank you for your sacrifice in defense of America and democracy? Is it any wonder that they would vote down a bill making sure our veterans come home to jobs? Is it any wonder they would put politics before people?
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.