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Wed Sep 26, 2012, 04:07 PM

GOP Blocks Passage of Veterans Conservation Jobs Bill


After spending the better half of last week bickering over whether or not to support veterans, the GOP just killed the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012. The bill would have increased hiring and job training for veterans over the next five years, with a focus on jobs restoring and protecting our public lands.

Actually, the bill won the majority of US Senate votes. Fifty-eight senators (including five Republicans) voted in favor of extending job opportunities to veterans. Unfortunately, procedural rules in the Senate required sixty votes to move this bill forward.

If any two issues exist, that should break the partisan divide and unite us as a nation, they are support for veterans and protecting our natural heritage. The Veterans Jobs Corps, a top priority for the Obama Administration, was detailed in the President's budget recommendations to Congress earlier this year. The bill would have increased skills training and job placement for veterans, primarily those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, while at the same time start to whittle down backlogged maintenance projects overwhelming our nation's public lands. According to the bill's sponsor, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the National Park Service alone has deferred maintenance totaling over $11 billion. The Veterans Jobs Corps would also increase employment among our returning service members as police, firefighters and first responders. Experts say the $1 billion bill would have paid for itself in ten years.

While the Veterans Jobs Corps may not have led to world peace, or even brought work to the 720,000 unemployed veterans across our nation, it would have been a big step in the right direction. The bill was supported by groups like the American Legion and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. It's also supported by the Sierra Club.

Senate Republicans kill veterans' jobs bill

With a major national election just seven weeks away, senators would have to be out of their minds to reject a jobs bill for U.S. military veterans, right?

Apparently not.

Veterans won't be getting a new, billion-dollar jobs program, not from this Senate. Republicans on Wednesday afternoon blocked a vote on the Veterans Job Corps Bill after Jeff Sessions of Alabama raised a point of order -- he said the bill violated a cap on spending agreed to by Congress last year.

The bill's sponsor, Patty Murray of Washington, said that shouldn't matter, since the bill's cost was fully offset by new revenues. She said Mr. Sessions and his party colleagues had been furiously generating excuses to oppose the bill, and were now exploiting a technicality to deny thousands of veterans a shot at getting hired as police officers, firefighters and parks workers, among other things.

The bill needed 60 votes to advance. The final tally was 58 to 40, and all 40 opponents of the proposal were Republicans.

As proposals go, this should have been a no-brainer. The Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), sought to lower unemployment among military veterans, giving grants to federal, state, and local agencies, which in turn would hire veterans -- giving priority to those who served on or after 9/11 -- to work as first-responders and in conservation jobs at national parks.

The bill was fully paid for, and entirely bipartisan -- Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had his own set of ideas for the bill, and Murray incorporated all of them into her legislation.

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