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Veterans Jobs Bill Pushed to Help Some Senate Democrats

September 11, 2012

Veterans Job Bill Emphasized by U.S. Senate Democrats

World War II veteran Ruby Gilliam, a delegate from Ohio, salutes during the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Honoring and helping veterans was a theme at the Democrats' convention last week. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

A U.S. Senate vote on a bill to create a job program for military veterans is designed to help Florida Democrat Bill Nelson tout his efforts for the state’s 1.7 million veterans as he seeks a third term.

The Democratic-led Senate will hold a procedural vote today on the measure, sponsored by Nelson. It would authorize $1 billion in spending through 2017 to help veterans find work as police officers and firefighters, and in conservation, historic preservation and national park projects.

“These veterans are so well-trained and have specialties and disciplines,” the Tampa Bay Business Journal quoted Nelson as saying at a Sept. 8 campaign rally in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The veterans job corps legislation, based on a proposal in President Barack Obama’s Jan. 24 State of the Union address, is the latest example of Senate leaders advancing an Obama-backed bill championed by a Democrat seeking re-election. Senate Democrats are defending 23 seats in November compared with 10 for Republicans.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, called the proposal “disingenuous” because it wouldn’t lead to long-term employment.

Instead of achieving Obama’s objective of creating career paths for returning veterans, Burr said the Democratic proposal would “create 20,000 temporary jobs.” He said he would offer an amendment that would work within federal agencies to create incentives for hiring veterans.

‘Purely Political’

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, doesn’t allow amendments, “then we know this is purely political,” Burr said.

Reid has scheduled other Senate votes to aid members seeking re-election. The chamber voted July 19 on a proposal by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow that would make it harder for companies to move jobs out of the U.S. and easier to bring jobs here. Stabenow is seeking a third term.

Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, who is running for a second term, was the lead sponsor of a bill the Senate voted on April 16 that would have put in place the so-called “Buffett rule,” setting a minimum 30 percent federal tax rate for the nation’s highest earners.

Neither measure advanced because of Republican opposition, allowing Democrats to say the votes showed a contrast between their efforts to aid the middle class and Republican policies they say are designed to protect the wealthy.

Republican Alternative

Although they have fewer opportunities to force votes as the minority party, Senate Republicans also have sought to aid their members seeking re-election. Nevada Republican Dean Heller was the chief sponsor last year of a Republican alternative during Democrats’ push for a one-year payroll tax cut extension.

Heller, who faces a challenge from Democratic Representative Shelley Berkley, proposed paying for the payroll tax cut by freezing federal pay through 2015 and reducing the civilian workforce by 10 percent.

Reid said yesterday that the veterans job corps bill fulfills a “promise” to veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing greater access to “really good jobs.”

“As this new generation of veterans returns home ready to work, it’s our job to make sure they have the opportunity to work,” Reid said.

The proposal the Senate will vote on today includes elements supported by Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat seeking a second term this year, aimed at helping veterans who live in rural areas.

Promises to Veterans

“Some folks in Washington still don’t understand that the promises we make to our veterans need to be kept no matter where a veteran lives,” Tester, who is being challenged in November’s election by Republican Representative Dennis Rehberg, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who is in a tight race against Republican Representative Todd Akin, yesterday criticized him for opposing job training programs for veterans.

“Missourians agree that we need to reduce our federal spending, but helping our veterans transition successfully in civilian life should always be a top priority,” McCaskill said in a statement.

Although the race remains close, McCaskill’s bid for a second term got a boost when Akin said in an television interview Aug. 19 that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, so a rape exception to a ban on abortion is unnecessary.

Another Democratic senator seeking re-election this year, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, is a co-sponsor of Nelson’s proposal. Nelson, whose state is a presidential battleground, has led his Republican opponent, Representative Connie Mack, in recent polls.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at khunter9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net


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