September 19, 2012
Eager to shoot down President Obama’s legislative agenda just weeks before the election, Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a measure that would have provided $1 billion over five years to help veterans find work in their communities.
The measure, which would have potentially created jobs for up to 20,000 veterans, was blocked on a procedural point by Republicans, who argued that the bill was unpaid for. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the bill’s main sponsor, said the bill would have covered the costs in part with fees on Medicare providers and suppliers who are delinquent on their tax bills.
The procedural vote was 58 to 40; 60 votes would have been required to waive Republican objections.
The bill was opposed, by, among others, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who said he believed the bill duplicated existing job programs for veterans that are not well run, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who has been seeking amendments on bills that would cut off funding to Egypt and to Pakistan until Pakistan freed Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.
“It’s both shocking and shameful that Republicans today chose to kill a bill to put America’s veterans back to work,” Ms. Murray said in a statement.
“At a time when one in four young veterans are unemployed,” she said, “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.”
She added that the vote was “stark reminder” that Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader from Kentucky, and Senate Republicans “are willing to do absolutely anything to fulfill the pledge he made nearly two years ago to defeat President Obama. It doesn’t matter who gets in their way or which Americans they have to sacrifice in that pursuit, even if it’s our nation’s veterans.”
Some Republicans, five of whom voted for the bill, also seemed disappointed about the failure of legislation that had the veneer of bipartisan support. “These men and women have worn our uniform, shouldered the burden and faced unthinkable dangers in forward areas during a very dangerous time,” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said.
The vote was met with a strong rebuke from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Once again, this Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work,“ said Paul Rieckhoff, the organization’s founder. “Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year.”