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GOP Senators Defeat Jobs Bill for US Veterans

Common Dreams staff

If US veterans, the group most routinely lauded by political leaders from both parties, can't get a jobs bill through the Congress, what about the millions of others still out of work? (Credit: Concerned Veterans for America)

The US Senate failed to pass a jobs bill aimed at putting US veterans to work through a federally funded public works program.

The Veterans Jobs Corps bill—modeled partly on Depression era programs like the Workers Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corp—would have concentrated $1 billion to help veterans find work building public infrastructure projects or as public safety workers like police officers or firefighters.

On a procedural block put up by Republicans, the Democratic majority could not find the 60 votes need to overcome the impasse.

A large number of economists and independent analysts have confirmed that worker programs such as this would be a boon to the lagging economy — though most urge initiatives on a much larger scale that would focus on putting the entire idle workforce, not just struggling veterans, back to work.

However, the fact that the Senate was unable to bridge partisan differences in a bill specifically designed to help US war veterans—the routinely most venerated group by both major parties—shows just how politically unviable a larger federal works program would be to pass under the current political alignment.

Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate veterans affairs committee, accused Senate Republicans of "shocking and shameful" obstructive politics. And continued: "At a time when one in four young veterans are unemployed, Republicans should have been able, for just this once, to put aside the politics of obstruction and to help these men and women provide for their families.

"It's unbelievable that even after more than a decade of war many Republicans still will not acknowledge that the treatment of our veterans is a cost of war. Today they voted down a fully paid-for bill that included bipartisan ideas to put veterans in jobs that will allow them to serve their communities. Jobs that would have helped provide veterans with the self-esteem that is so critical to their successful transition home."

As Think Progress reported: 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.”

The Guardian adds:

The jobs bill is based on a proposal in President Barack Obama's state of the union address in January.

Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Senate, said the bill had met "one Republican stall tactic after another", in a post to his Twitter account last week. He said the tactics marked a "new low" for Republicans.

Jeff Sessions, the Senate Budget Committee ranking member, said he objected to the bill on the grounds it would increase the veterans affairs department budget and would blow though the spending cap lawmakers agreed last year.

Democrats argue the bills costs are already covered by plans to collect more than half a billion in unpaid taxes over the next five years, according to the Washington Examiner.

The bill was held up in the Senate last week after filibustering by Rand Paul, the Republican Senator for Kentucky, to gain support for a Pakistani doctor who helped locate Osama Bin Laden.

Paul has promised to block Senate action until the doctor, Shakil Afridi, is released from jail. The Pakistani government has said it will not release him. Paul has also called on the Obama administration to cut foreign aid to Pakistan until Afridi is released.

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