Five Republican senators joined Democrats attempting to pass the Veterans Jobs Corps Act on September 19, but fell two votes short of passage due to a procedural objection introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions’ objection raised to 60 the number of affirmative votes required to pass the bill. Due to that technicality, the majority of 58 senators voting for the measure fell short of passage by just two votes.
VJC would have established a program with similarities to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression. Veterans would have been hired for work in conservation, resource management, historic preservation, preservation and restoration of national parks, and as police officers and firefighters under the proposed legislation. Sessions’ budgetary point of order killed the bill, and probably any chance of reintroducing it this year.
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dean Heller (Nev.), and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins (Maine) joined with Democrats who voted unanimously to waive the budgetary objections in support of the veterans’ jobs program. Also voting for the waiver was Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), purportedly with special “permission” from Republican leadership.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed outrage over the defeat of the bill. IAVA represents the largest number of post-9/11 vets of any organization today. Rieckhoff decried the vote outcome affirming, “We hope constituents, veterans and their families across the country will hold the Senate accountable for this failure.”
IAVA released the following statement in response to the Senate’s failure to pass the Act – which would help put thousands of young veterans back to work:
“This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work. Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year,” said IAVA Founder and Chief Executive Officer Paul Rieckhoff. “Election politics should never stand in the way of creating job opportunities for our nation’s veterans, especially with an official 10.9% unemployment rate…
“The blockage of the Veterans Job Corps Act, a bipartisan effort authored by Senators Murray, Burr, Boozman, Heller and Toomey, should outrage all Americans. This bill was smart bipartisan policy that would put veterans back into service for their communities as policemen, firefighters and first responders. The result of today’s vote creates tremendous doubt that this Congress will be able to pass any additional veterans’ legislation in 2012. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans should not have to wait until 2013 for critical support from Congress.”
IAVA also noted, “In addition to creating jobs for veterans as police officers, firefighters, first responders, and restorative conservationists, the Veterans Job Corps Act would have also extended the critical Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP provides employment, education and entrepreneurship advice for troops separating from the service, and to veterans and their spouses after they’ve left the military. The VJC would also require states to consider military training and experience in granting credentials and licensure for EMTs, nursing assistants and commercial driver’s licenses.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a co-sponsor of the Act, commented, “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.”
Murray warned too Republicans may use the same kinds of procedural objections to block other legislation for veterans, such as bills for mental health care, and fertility services for female troops who have suffered damage to their reproductive systems from war injuries.
See the full vote roll call here.