With so many veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with TBI, there is an urgent need for action on the issue, so I enlisted the aid of my colleague Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to help move this bill. Our legislation was incorporated into a larger package to improve veterans’ benefits, the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which the president signed into law earlier this year. If not for the steadfast support and work of Senator Begich, the bill might still be languishing in committee. It is proof that bipartisanship is not only alive, but well when it comes to actions on behalf of our veterans.
Unfortunately, election season turns Washington into a whole different animal. Too often, efforts to reach across the aisle get blocked. Partisan brinksmanship and politics take center stage. The extent to which this problem plagues Washington even reaches areas like veterans’ issues where we traditionally find common ground.
We saw this recently in the Senate during the debate over the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, a well-intentioned, but poorly constructed bill. Coming on the heels of two bipartisan veterans’ jobs bills, the Veterans Jobs Corp Act was a turn in the wrong direction. Drafted solely by Senate Democrats, without the input of Republicans or approval of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the bill was haphazardly rushed to the Senate floor. While there were a few separate Republicans ideas included, that was merely to create the illusion of “bipartisanship,” rather than a serious effort to work together.
While there are good provisions in the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, there were reasonable concerns with the bill, especially its pay-for, which the nonpartisan Senate Parliamentarian ruled was in violation of the Congressional Budget Act. As a result, the bill was sent back to the Committee to be fixed. This all could have been avoided, and we could have helped more veterans, if the Senate Majority had simply reached across the aisle to address our concerns.
I am confident that Congress can reach compromises on legislation to put veterans back to work. We have done it twice already this session of Congress, passing two jobs-related veterans bills under the bicameral, bipartisan leadership of Chairwoman Patty Murray and Chairman Jeff Miller. I commend them for working together to find common-ground for our veterans. Lawmakers of both parties need to follow that example when we return after the election.
Now that the election is behind us, and Congress remains divided, this need for bipartisanship on veterans’ issues is vital. The core functions of government, including providing for our veterans and their families, should not be subjected to political gamesmanship.
Let us use Veterans Day as a reminder that the men and women of our Armed Forces — who bravely volunteer to stand in defense of our nation, our cherished values, and our way of life — are far too important to be used as political pawns. As our service members have risked their lives to protect the ideals of our nation, we must remain unified in our commitment to support them once they leave military life. Washington agrees on that in principle. We need to back that up with bipartisan action.
Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.