Filibuster threat prevents vote
The Veterans Jobs Corps Act (S. 3457), a bipartisan bill intended to create jobs for our Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans, died in a close vote in the U.S. Senate on September 19. When originally drafted, the bill was expected to pass easily.
The New York Times reported an immediate and visceral response from Veterans:
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.”
The legislation was initially proposed by President Barack Obama as part of a broader program to promote job growth as the U.S. recovers from the 2008 recession. For many months, both Republican and Democratic Senators worked together to fund conservation jobs for Veterans on public lands and at national cemeteries. If it had passed, then the law would have also provided grants to state and local governments to hire more first responders, such as police and firefighters. Priority for the funds would have gone to communities that hired post-9/11 Veterans.
The need for the legislation remains overwhelming. National unemployment remains near eight percent. However, the unemployment rate among post-9/11 Veterans is nearly 11 percent. According to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), “This bill includes 12 different provisions to help create veterans jobs – and eight of them are ideas that have come from Republicans.”
Reports of Veteran unemployment are partially masked due to other government programs providing transition assistance to the 2.5 million U.S. service members who deployed to war in the past 11 years. The GI Bill education benefits that started in 2009 also play a vital role in readjustment efforts by providing Veterans money for to attend college. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has already assisted 800,000 Veterans who may have otherwise shown up in unemployment lines, further exacerbating unemployment among Veterans.
The Veterans Job Corps Act required 60 votes to pass due to threats of a filibuster. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the bill because they objected to the $1 billion cost. The bill died on a vote of 58 – 40.