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Senate GOP Blocks Veterans Jobs Measure
Image: – – Veterans Info Site
Republicans object to the $1-billion price tag and Obama's plan to pay for it. Other bills also appear doomed.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's proposal to create a Veterans Jobs Corps to stem high unemployment among recent military veterans was shelved Wednesday after Senate Republicans balked at the five-year, $1-billion cost, giving both sides fresh ammunition for the November election.
The jobs bill was on Obama's to-do list for Congress, a set of initiatives that Republicans have largely rejected. The measure was designed to help veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by providing jobs on federal public lands projects and by building job training centers.
The jobless rate among post-Sept. 11 veterans was 10.9% in August, compared with 8.1 % in the general population.
Republicans objected to the projected price tag as well as the administration's plan to pay for the program by imposing penalties on Medicare providers and suppliers that are delinquent on taxes and by collecting back taxes from others.
"No veteran who fought for our nation should have to fight for a job at home, but Republicans in Washington are blocking a common-sense plan to create the Veterans Jobs Corps and put tens of thousands of veterans back to work," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The proposal is among Democratic and Republican measures in the House and Senate this week that are expected to gain little traction as Congress wraps up its work so that members can campaign full time for the election.
In the House, Republicans are working on legislation that would roll back federal regulations on coal mining and amend the administration's new welfare-to- work requirements. Both measures are expected to stall in the Senate.
Control of Congress will be determined by the election this fall, and Republicans are trying to preserve their 25-seat majority in the House, while Democrats are struggling to keep their narrow control of the Senate.
The one bill likely to clear both chambers before Congress adjourns is legislation to keep the government funded into next year, averting the threat of a shutdown Oct. 1, the start of the next fiscal year.
The Senate advanced the funding bill Wednesday and is likely to send it to the White House for Obama's signature this week. The House already approved the measure.
One possible snag is an effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to withhold aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. Paul has vowed to stage a filibuster to block the bill unless his proposal is brought for a Senate vote.
He is pushing for Libya to hand over to U.S. authorities suspects from last week's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, and for Egypt to vow to protect the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. He also wants to make aid to Pakistan contingent on the government's release from prison of a doctor who sought to help the CIA track Osama bin Laden before the terrorist leader was killed last year.
The Veterans Jobs Corps measure needed 60 votes to overcome the budgetary hurdle but was turned back, 58 to 40.
"It doesn't have to end this way," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said as the Senate prepared to vote. "We owe [veterans] more than bumper stickers and platitudes. We owe them more than procedural roadblocks."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the chamber's top budget hawks, said job training programs already existed for veterans and had "no oversight. Nobody knows if they work."
"The real question is, how do you help them the best?" he said.
Five Republicans joined Democrats in trying to advance the bill, including Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada. Both are facing tough reelection battles.
By Lisa Mascaro
Los Angeles Times
September 20, 2012