Legislation to create a Veterans Job Corps suffered a major defeat Wednesday afternoon after Republicans successfully blocked the bill’s advance with a budgetary point of order.
The Senate voted 58 to 40 largely on party lines in favor of waiving the procedural objection, short of the three-fifths majority needed. Republicans said the bill was in violation of the Budget Control Act, prohibiting new programs that would add to the deficit.
“They’re going to kill it on a technicality,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said on the floor before the vote. “That’s the bottom line here. That’s what’s going on here, and it’s sad.”
Nelson said Republican opposition stemmed from refusal to support an initiative that originated in the White House. The corps, loosely based on the Civilian Conservation Corps created during the Great Depression, would put veterans to work on preserving and restoring federal, state and local lands.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said GOP concerns were about the $1 billion price tag for the program over five years.
“If in fact we want to help veterans get jobs, there are lots of ways to do it,” Coburn said on the floor before the vote. “We need to make sure the job training programs we have are working, and they’re not.”
“It’s both shocking and shameful that Republicans today chose to kill a bill to put America’s veterans back to work,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a bill co-sponsor, said in a statement after the vote. “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.”
Murray called the vote a “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.”
Murray said budgetary set-asides would pay for the cost of the bill.
Several Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, joined Democrats in supporting the motion to waive the budgetary objections.
Murray and Nelson said the vote effectively kills the legislation, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who raised the budget point of order, said the action simply requires the veterans committee to come back with a bill that does not add to the deficit.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking member of the Senate veterans committee, voted against allowing the job corps bill to advance. He has introduced alternative legislation that includes several veterans job-training initiatives but removes the provision establishing the job corps.
Before the vote, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the largest organization representing the post-9/11 generation of veterans, issued an appeal to allow the bill to move forward.
“Partisan bickering should never stand in the way of creating job opportunities for the New Greatest Generation, especially with a 10.9 percent unemployment rate,” said IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff.