By Ramsey Cox
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he thinks the veterans jobs bill currently being debated in the Senate is more about helping politicians than it is about helping veterans.
“What we’re really doing is passing a bill for political reasons that’s not going anywhere in the House so that we can say we’re doing things,” Coburn said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The Veterans Jobs Corp Act would create new job-training programs to help veterans find work in targeted fields such as national park conservation, historic preservation projects, police work and firefighting, among others. The five-year bill costs $1 billion and creates new revenue to pay for itself over 10 years.
“So we don’t have a hearing, we don’t have a markup, we come to the floor, we’re not going to have amendments,” Coburn said. “Is this about veterans or is this about politicians? I suspect it’s about politicians and not veterans.
“What’s really happening here is we’re playing the political card because how could anyone oppose the Veterans Job Corp?” Coburn said. “The better question is how callous it is to put forward a bill that we don’t know if it will work.”
Coburn questioned the “honor and valor” of those proposing the bill.
“I’m for helping veterans; I’m for paying for it,” Coburn said. “This bill isn’t it. This bill is a charade, [and] to call it anything else is an insult to those who serve our country.”
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) are leading the effort for the legislation. Negotiations are under way, and some suggestions by ranking member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are being incorporated into the bill.
“This bill says all good ideas are welcome because our veterans need all the help they can get, and it’s fully paid for in a bipartisan way,” Murray said in a floor speech Tuesday. “Our veterans don’t ask for a lot ... but our veterans shouldn’t have to ask, we should know how to provide for them.”
Murray called Coburn's remarks about her veterans’ jobs bill “baseless and offensive.”
“What the Senator called a ‘charade’ is an effort to help [veterans] find work,” Murray said on the floor. “It’s not enough to give our veterans a pat on the back for their service, we also need to give them a helping hand into the jobs market.”
Coburn voted to move the bill forward Tuesday. The cloture motion passed 95-1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only senator to vote against the motion.