Vets' Job Bill Stalled, Hangs on Procedural Vote
A vote on the Veterans Job Corps legislation -- which was expected to happen Thursday night or early Friday morning -- has been postponed until next week when Republican lawmakers hope to prevent it from coming to a vote at all, says a Democrat aide close to bill negotiations.
The jobs bill would appropriate $1 billion over five years to help veterans get into jobs ranging from police and firefighters to maintainers and rangers of the country's national and state parks. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., vowed the bill would be voted on even as late as 1 am Friday, Murray said during a phone-in press conference with reporters on Thursday.
But that didn't happen. Democrats claim the Republicans want to kill the legislation through a procedural vote next week. Republicans said they're ensuring the Senate does not pass the law by violating its own "pay as you go" spending rules.
Tom Tarantino, the chief policy official for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the two sides need to get it together for the sake of the country's veterans and soon-to-be-veterans.
"This issue needs to be above partisan politics," Tarantino said. "With an unemployment rate at 10.9 percent both sides of the aisle need to be doing everything they can to create jobs for vets. Republicans and Democrats came together to create a great bill, now they need to work together to pass it."
On the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., indicated that was not going to happen anytime soon. McCain suggested the push for the Veterans Job Corps Bill was cover for the administration not tackling the looming problem of sequestration or getting a defense budget through.
"Great, a veterans' jobs bill. What could be better? What could be more important?" he offered. "Well, we've got six … veterans' jobs programs. They haven't succeeded and the fact is we are not addressing the needs of the men and women in the military who will be veterans someday."
"The American people see through this charade that we're conducting these last few days before we go out campaigning," McCain said.
Congress has about a week left before they break until after the November election.
In her criticism of GOP senators on Thursday, Murray accused them of offering various excuses not to vote on the jobs bill, including a claim by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that the program requires new funding and violates "pay as you go."
She says that's not the case.
"This bill is paid for using offsets that both Republicans and Democrats have supported in the past," she said in the Senate on Thursday.
Sessions calling for a procedural vote to make sure the bill meets Senate rules is not new. A Senate GOP source says the Alabama senator has often required votes on spending bills -- including those originating with GOP lawmakers.
The procedural vote reportedly will consider whether the bill does not exceed spending caps in place.
"Instead of allowing Senators to vote on the jobs bill itself, Republicans are trying to kill it using a procedural budget vote," according to the Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The vote next Wednesday will enforce a cap on veterans spending for the year that is indifferent to whether bills are offset with spending cuts."
If the bill fails over a vote on the budget cap the GOP "will likely have ended any chance for additional veterans' investments for the year," he said.
In her championing of the jobs legislation, Murray has pointed out that the bill incorporates in its entirety recommendations made to it by Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Burr was not available for comment or to say whether inclusion of his recommendation also came with support of the bill.