The Republicans managed a stunning victory in the Senate today, narrowly defeating a bi-partisan $1 billion bill designed to help 20,000 post-9/11 veterans to find work.
All but a handful of Republicans voted (58-40) to kill the bill on a procedural objection. That’s all it took. They beat it by two votes.
Support for veterans is traditionally bipartisan. In fact, the Senate had recently passed a series of smaller measures to expand the G.I. Bill.
So Democrats were feeling good about the Veterans Job Corps bill. They also had the support several Republicans including Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
And let’s face it. The Democrats also have the facts on their side when it comes to the need for helping veterans.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 8.3% of veterans were unemployed in 2011. Young male veterans are hit the hardest by joblessness. Male vets aged 18-24 who served during the post-9/11 era are burdened with a 21.9% unemployment rate.
The Veterans Job Corps bill was ready to put those young men to work in the nation’s parks or on local fire fighter crews or police squads across the country.
The legislation is loosely fashioned after the Civilian Conservation Corps which put veterans to work during the Great Depression. The bill had the support of dozens of groups, from fire fighter associations to the Foreign Legion.
Jobs for vets. Sounds like a terrible idea, right?
But Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma led the Republican charge to kill the bill. Coburn says the bill costs too much and violates Senate rules for funding. Coburn called the bill a “political device” and asked his fellow Senators if they have the “…character to sacrifice our political careers and the willingness to do what’s in the best, long-term interest of the country”.
Well, the Republicans proved they did have the “character” Coburn talked about and they killed the Veterans Jobs Corps Act.
As Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) argued before the fateful vote, “Putting our service members back to work is the cost of war.” If you judge by this vote, most Republican Senators don’t seem to think our vets are worth the price.