Kyung M. Song
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Sen. Patty Murray’s $1 billion legislation to create a jobs corps for veterans, invoking a budget rule to kill what they contend is an unproven and unaffordable program.
The 58-40 vote to waive a procedural budget motion fell two votes short. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already postponed the vote from last Friday, when Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said the bill violates the Budget Control Act.
Five Republicans sided with all 53 members of the Democratic caucus to override the GOP objection, but that was insufficient. Sixty votes were needed.
The Veterans Jobs Corp Act would have trained and employed veterans for jobs in forests, wildlife refuges, parks, cemeteries and other public lands. Murray proposed paying for the $1 billion tab over five years in part by collecting delinquent taxes from Medicare providers and suppliers and from individuals with more than $50,000 in unpaid taxes.
Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote, Murray said the GOP’s motion in effect told veterans the nation has spent enough money on them. The Washington Democrat, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the bill incorporated many ideas from Republicans to improve its chance for passage.
In a statement, Murray denounced the Republican blockade:
“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.
Congress is scheduled to adjourn this week until after the election. Murray’s spokesman said the bill is unlikely to be resurrected this year.
- The Seattle Times