(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement after Senate Republicans killed her Veterans Jobs Corps Act which would have provided a $1 billion investment to help veterans find work as police officers, firefighters, and in other jobs serving their communities. Despite the fact that Veterans Jobs Corps Act was fully paid for, Senate Republicans raised a procedural point of order in order to kill the bill which would have required 60 votes to waive. The final vote on the point of order was 58-40.
“It’s both shocking and shameful that Republicans today chose to kill a bill to put America’s veterans back to work. 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.
“But this vote is stark reminder that Senator McConnell 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.
“It’s unbelievable that even after more than a decade of war many Republicans still will not acknowledge that the treatment of our veterans is a cost of war. Today they voted down a fully paid for bill that included bipartisan ideas to put veterans in jobs that will allow them to serve their communities. Jobs that would have helped provide veterans with the self-esteem that is so critical to their successful transition home.
“Today Senate Republicans told the less than 1% of Americans who have spent the last decade serving and sacrificing for the other 99% of Americans that they are not willing to honor that sacrifice with new investments in their well-being when they return home.”
The following are Senator Murray’s remarks on the floor of the Senate prior to the vote:
“Mr. President, here is what a vote to support this point of order says - plain and simple: ‘We have spent enough on our veterans.’
“A vote to support this point of order says that despite the fact that we have paid for this bill, despite the fact that one in four young veterans are out of work, despite the fact that veterans suicides are outpacing combat deaths, and despite the fact that more and more veterans are coming home, we are not going to invest in these challenges. We have done enough.
“Mr. President this point of order puts a price on what we are willing to provide our veterans and it says ‘not a penny more.’
“It’s a point of order that will not only kill our ability to pass this bill. But that could also affect nearly every effort we make to improve the lives of veterans going forward.
“In fact, just last week, I held a markup of the Veterans Affairs Committee, in which we passed a slew of bills in a bipartisan fashion. Bills that would improve mental health access, that would give students new tools to maximize the GI bill, and that would give those veterans who have lost their ability to start a family access to fertility services.
“These bills could likely all be subject to this point of order - as would countless other veterans bills introduced by Senators on both sides of the aisle. And there is no end in sight for how long this point of order could be raised.
“So we should to consider the lasting effects of this vote. And we should all consider the fact that veterans are watching this vote closely.
“Mr. President, this is a bill that has been endorsed by the American Legion and by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They know, as I do, that neither party has the magic bullet for this problem and that we should be taking good ideas from both sides of the aisle.
“And that’s exactly what we have done with this bill. This bill includes 12 different provisions to help create veterans jobs - and eight of them are ideas that have come from Republicans.
“In fact, to make this bill even more inclusive and more bipartisan we took Senator Burr’s entire alternative bill and added it to ours. At every turn, we have sought compromise. But instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance.
“Instead of saying yes to the nearly one million unemployed veterans, it seems some on the other side have spent the last week and a half seeking out any way to say no.
“But it doesn’t have to end this way for our unemployed veterans – we can join together to pass this bill.
“You know Mr. President, our veterans don’t ask for a lot. My own father never really talked about his service. The veterans that I meet all across the country certainly don’t want to be seen as dependent on government.
“But we do owe them more than just a pat on the back for their service. We owe them more than bumper stickers and platitudes. We owe them more than procedural roadblocks that will impede our ability to provide help now and into the future. We owe them action. We owe them real investments that will help get them back to work.
“And that’s what this bill does. And it does so because putting our service members back to work is a cost of war.
“Just like their health care and benefits. It is part of what we owe the less than 1% of men and women who sacrificed for the 99% that didn’t.
“Mr. President, It’s no secret that this is not the easiest time of year to get this bill across the finish line. It’s all too easy to point to the calendar or to level accusations of politics against one another.
“But in my two decades working on veterans issues here in the Senate, I have seen veterans issues rise above politics time and again, even when it seemed our backs were against the wall. I have seen Democrats and Republicans come together.
“And they have done so because there is one group of Americans that doesn’t care about the calendar or how many days we are from an election – and that’s our unemployed veterans. What they care about is finding work in their communities, finding work that gives them self esteem, and finding work that helps them provide for their loved ones.
“Mr. President, we can help do that today. I urge my colleagues to join with us in waiving this point of order. To join with us in telling our veterans that we are not done investing in their care and benefits – not by a long shot. Join with us in moving forward with a bill that is paid for, that won’t add to our deficit, and that shouldn’t be killed by procedural games. Join with us in putting veterans above political obstruction, and back to work.