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Public Statements

Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Mr. President, before I say what I originally came down here to say, I want to join my colleagues in condemning the senseless, horrible attack at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and pay tribute to the four Americans, including our Ambassador there, Chris Stevens, who were killed. I think all of us hope the killers will be brought to justice quickly, and I suspect that will be the case.

Our country has lost four true public servants in the part of public service which is the least known and sometimes the most important. It is a high calling, public service in general, but especially in dangerous places around the world. Ambassador Stevens was a serious, dedicated, and highly experienced diplomat with a tremendous depth of expertise in Libya and the region. He and his colleagues spent their lives working on behalf of the United States of America and I hope their proud families and the entire diplomatic corps know we are deeply grateful as a people.

This cowardly attack is a setback, but it will not stop us from our mission of promoting freedom and democracy for the people of Libya, and it should not. It will not keep our diplomats from their important work overseas.

I remember when I was a student in Japan, the Ambassador there at the time, back in the early 1960s, was a fellow named Dr. Edwin Reischauer, who was probably at that time the preeminent Japanologist in America. He was a gentle, wonderful, marvelous person whom the Japanese loved. He was stabbed in one of those senseless things that happen. It can happen on American streets, but it can happen on the streets of other countries, even with security. Some mad person got in and stabbed him in a traditional Japanese manner with a Japanese sword. It was a horrible event, but he survived and it enlarged his legend. There was no bitterness from his family or his wife, and it didn't set anything back. The person was brought to justice.

Now I wish to speak also about other ways we must join together to help those who serve our country, and that is in creating job opportunities for our unemployed veterans. We have many veterans, and too many of them are unemployed or homeless. I am now talking about the Veterans Jobs Corps Act. This is a responsible investment and we should do it promptly.

Standing for our veterans has been one of my top priorities since I began public service. You can't help but be that way if you live in West Virginia. I suspect it is true in Oregon and lots of places all over the country. By definition it is true, but it is always personal, and in the Senate it has never waned.

Before I was a Senator, the person who held my seat for a long time was Senator Jennings Randolph. I took his place on the Veterans Committee and I have been on it now for 28 years. It is a glorious committee, brilliantly led now by Senator Patty Murray. I was chairman once myself, perhaps not quite so brilliantly.

So many brave servicemembers, men and women, have fought to defend our way of life. People say that, and it is true, and they protect us each and every day. After such courageous and selfless actions, the least we can do is make sure when they return home they get good jobs, because they deserve those good jobs.

Military experience builds leadership, dedication, bravery, and teamwork, and these traits are learned from working on the frontlines. Not everything in the military happens on the frontlines, but I just happen to be talking about that particular aspect in my short remarks. No experience could prepare these workers better for the jobs they hope to do after they leave their military service.

I have a nephew who has just come back from Afghanistan. He may be 23, maybe 25, but he is almost unreachable in his strength, his patriotism, and what has happened to him as a human being internally, intellectually, and in broad vision. He has grown so large and so great. He has a job, so I am not talking about him, but with so many brave servicemembers--men and women--we need to pay attention to them when they come home.

Political rhetoric and partisanship have no business delaying efforts to help our veterans. Everybody likes to talk about veterans--actually, a lot of bills do pass but not as many bills as should. Veterans did not delay or decline when we called them for deployment, so we should not delay now.

It is tragic that the unemployment rate for younger returning veterans is so much higher than the national unemployment rate. In 2011, the unemployment rate for young male veterans was over 29 percent, more than 11 percent higher than nonveterans of precisely the same age. It is heartbreaking that those who bravely served face unemployment or homelessness. This bill will not solve all problems, but it will solve many of them.

West Virginians understand the importance of military service. With nearly 170,000 West Virginian veterans, we need to be sure they have our full support: getting a job, getting health care, and getting their pensions. These words come out of one's mouth easily; getting the job done is harder.

The Veterans Job Corps Act invests in our veterans and in our communities. Veterans would have a new opportunity to serve and protect America by gaining priority placement in first responder positions, such as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. That makes sense, doesn't it? Our veterans have the experience and the instinct to do these jobs--they did it while they served--and our communities need their help.

I don't know what is going to happen to the budget, but it is not going to be rosy and happy, and we need to have those jobs which help protect us and keep us safe in play, for our veterans and for others too. It would create conservation and resource management jobs for veterans, enlisting them in efforts to rebuild America through restoration of our forests, parks, coasts, and public lands. I think the Presiding Officer would agree that is important.

The Veterans Job Corps Act would establish a pilot program to provide veterans with access to the Internet and computers to assist in job searches and would offer the military's Transition Assistance Program to eligible veterans--and their spouses--at sites outside military installations in order to make it easier to relocate and pursue job opportunities.

The legislation would also provide veterans in rural areas, such as West Virginia and Oregon, with greater access to career specialists to help them write resumes and prepare for interviews and therefore to find jobs. The programs in the Veterans Job Corps Act are supported by a fully paid-for $1 billion investment in our veterans' futures. It is a responsible effort to support our veterans and provide help for communities across America.

In closing, I would like to especially thank Leader Reid and Chairman Murray for working with me to protect West Virginian jobs as part of this bill. The Veterans Job Corps Act is an important investment in our Nation's veterans and our economy, and I hope we can quickly move this bill through the Congress.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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