Vetern's Oppurtunity to Work Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:  Bob Filner
Date: Oct. 11, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I think the whole committee, and certainly the chairman and I, agree that putting veterans to work, especially at a time of high unemployment in general, should be one of the chief goals not only of this committee but of the entire Congress and our Nation. And when we may have, for example, double or even triple the already tragic unemployment rate for veterans, it becomes that much more important.

Now I've heard descriptions of this bill as comprehensive and as meaningful. And I was looking forward to this VOW bill, the Veterans Opportunity to Work. I was hoping it would be a WOW bill--that is, a wonderful opportunity to work--but it seems it has become, and remains so, the HOW bill--how are we going to put anybody to work with this bill?

Let me try to make that clear, Madam Speaker. Throughout the whole committee process that this bill went through, I described it as one that did not create jobs, but actually taxed veterans. Taxed veterans. Remember that, Madam Speaker. You took a pledge not to vote for anything that taxed anybody. This bill does. It actually taxes one group of veterans to help some other group of veterans. And I still feel the same way about the bill as it came through the process. Now I support all programs that will help veterans and improve their lives, and I know this bill is called a jobs bill. But, it is merely a retraining bill. Retraining.

Now, we all want retraining, and we all know it's important. But I want to get people a job. I don't just want to retrain them and call this some great bill. My concern is that this bill will not get veterans hired at all. It may retrain them, who knows, but they'll have no place to get a job. And we'll have taxed one set of veterans to pay for their retraining--an increased tax, for all of you who took the pledge not to increase taxes.

Now I think we have to support the spirit of the bill of retraining and try to find proper funding in a bipartisan way, and I hope that working with our Senate counterparts we can do that. We need proper funding for all of these programs that are so good. But the gentleman and his party don't want to ask for more money from anybody, even our millionaires. They want to tax one group of veterans who are trying to buy homes, and so they'll train this group of veterans and claim they're creating jobs. Now, that's not what we should be doing here in this Congress.

This bill will actually diminish services to our veterans. I know that my counterparts, for example, want the so-called TAP classes, the Transition Assistance Program classes, contracted out. But I don't think the time is right to do that. So how do we pay for this bill for retraining, this VOW bill that should've been a WOW bill but is only a HOW bill? It says to those who want to buy a home through the VA housing program that your fees, which were scheduled to go down, will not now go down. They're going to be kept high. This refusal to extend a tax decrease has always been described by the party over there as a tax increase, so I will keep your language. You are increasing the taxes on one group of veterans who want to buy homes to pay for this retraining bill which may not get anybody a job.

Now, I know, Madam Speaker, you're going to tell Grover Norquist what's going on here, get hold of him right away, because this is a violation of the pledge that he is requiring of all of the Republicans: don't raise taxes. And in his definition of raising taxes, it's extending fees that were going to go down that now don't go down. So that's an increase in taxes.

So let's remember this when we think about the VOW bill. Let's vow to say we want to put people to work, we don't want to raise taxes. But this bill does neither. It not only doesn't put people to work, it raises taxes. So I cannot support the bill, Madam Speaker, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank the gentleman for the description of Dr. Seuss. He's a great citizen of the city of San Diego, and a great hero to all of us in San Diego. So we always quote Dr. Seuss. I understand your appreciation, and I'm thrilled by it.

You are not quite as accurate, though, when you say where we got the money for the Filipino veterans bill. In fact, we got it from a completely different source. You may or may not be accurate on my previous votes, but I never took the pledge that you have taken, Mr. Chairman. I never took the pledge that all of you have taken about not allowing the lowering of fees as a new tax.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FILNER. I will yield when I'm finished. You have a lot of time left.

We're coming from wholly different places. I believe in the jobs bill that is being voted on in the Senate, that we should actually in fact not only cut programs but increase our revenue from a surtax on the millionaires in our society. So I'm there when I say we need new funds. You're the ones who keep saying, Don't do anything; Don't do anything; Don't increase anything; Don't extend this, don't extend that. You're the guys who are the hypocrites here. So don't confuse my past votes with hypocrisy.

In addition, there are bills before our committee, Mr. Chairman, and you know it, that actually increase the jobs that are available for veterans. They actually take steps to increase the ability for our veterans who are defending our Nation, who we owe so much to, to get the jobs.

Besides, as you know, we have goals all over the government to hire veterans and to hire disabled veterans. Those goals are not enforced. What if we enforced those goals? We could hire thousands of veterans, because it is the intent of Congress and the intent of this Nation that they be given priority in the hiring process, especially with public jobs. Yet we do not enforce those goals.

So let's not say that this is the only way to increase jobs. There are dozens of way, and they're in front of our committee.

Let's go for a WOW bill; a wonderful opportunity to work for our veterans. Let's move off the VOW. Let's move off the taxing of one part of veterans to pay for the other. Let's really create jobs for those who have done so much for our Nation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Since the gentleman, my good friend, forgot to yield to me during that discussion, I just want to set the record straight that H.R. 2297, on December 16, 2003, of which Mr. Filner was a cosponsor, increased--it didn't just extend--it increased fees on original and subsequent use loans, which was done to finance veterans benefits in the bill, including the burial of Philippine veterans. In the House he enthusiastically endorsed the bill reported out of committee and again endorsed a negotiated version with the Senate.

With that, I yield 2 minutes to my colleague from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx).


Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I would yield to the gentlelady from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx).

I appreciate the provision you put in. But do you know that the other provision increases the fees for veterans to buy their homes, that you are extending a higher fee and paying for this whole thing by taxing these veterans at a higher rate? Do you realize that that's what you're voting for, in violation of your pledge to Grover Norquist?

Ms. FOXX. I am going to yield to my colleague from Florida (Mr. Miller).

Mr. FILNER. I asked you. I didn't yield to him. I yielded to you, Ms. Foxx. Do you know that you're voting on an extension of taxes, in violation of your pledge to Grover Norquist?

Ms. FOXX. As I said, I would yield to my colleague----

Mr. FILNER. I don't yield to the chair. I yielded only to you.

For the record, I guess you don't know what you're voting on, or you're voting against what your pledge was.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will address his remarks to the Chair.

Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, the gentlelady from North Carolina did not answer my question. I guess she either doesn't know what's in the bill, or she's violating her pledge. I'll leave it at that.

Once again, we need jobs for veterans in this country. There is no debate about that. And there's no debate that retraining is okay. What we are debating here is whether this is an effective way to use the floor of this House to bring up a bill which will be presented as something that did jobs, and does nothing, and shows the hypocrisy of these pledges that they're voting to extend the increase----

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FILNER. I'm not yielding.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Will my good friend yield?

Mr. FILNER. I will not even yield to my good friend. Even if you were my best friend, I wouldn't yield to you.

The hypocrisy of saying, we can't tax anything, we can't tax anything but when it comes to veterans who want to buy a home, their fees are going to be increased because of this bill.

Now, that ought to be known to the American people that we're going to vote against a 5 percent surcharge on millionaires, but we're going to go after these folks who are trying to buy their first home and have to pay higher fees.

This Republican party is going to protect the millionaires but go after the veterans who can't afford a home. That's what this argument is about right now, under the guise of helping our veterans find jobs. Let's show the American people where reality is.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. I would ask my good friend, the ranking member, if he would respond to a question.

Mr. FILNER. Tell me what the question is.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Madam Speaker, I would ask if the gentleman from California supports Senator Murray's piece of legislation--which I believe there is almost an identical piece filed in the House by Mr. Bishop--does he support, yes or no, that piece of legislation?

Mr. FILNER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. MILLER of Florida. I yield to the gentleman from California.

Mr. FILNER. No, I don't support it because it has the same funding thing. And I don't support the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, which says it's against a 5 percent surtax on millionaires but will tax veterans who are trying to buy their first home.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Reclaiming my time, Madam Speaker, I find it quite interesting that the gentleman from California has just called the Senator, who is the chair of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, a hypocrite, which I do not believe is appropriate.

I believe that there are nuances and differences which we will be able to work out, hopefully, in conference when we bring these bills together. I hope that the minority will, in fact, engage in the conference portion of this piece of legislation because we have tried to engage them over and over outside of the committee structure to be able to give them an opportunity to give us another offset, another way to fund this particular piece of legislation, and they have not brought anything to us. So, to me, it's a problem we are trying to solve. We have different ways in which we are trying to accomplish goals.

And I want to put veterans back to work, helping to retrain those, in particular those that are unemployed in this very, very difficult economic time. The overall veterans' unemployment numbers are around 8.1 percent, and we know that the numbers with the OEF/OIF returning veterans are significantly higher.

I don't believe I have any more speakers on this particular piece of legislation, Madam Speaker, and I would reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, how much time do I have remaining?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from California has 9 1/2 minutes remaining.

Mr. FILNER. Thank you.

Let me just correct again my friend, the chairman. I didn't call Chairman Murray a hypocrite. I called those of the Republican Party who have taken a pledge of no taxation and voting for taxes here, hypocrites. Let's be clear about whom I'm calling hypocrite. Let's be clear about that.

Second, there are a hundred different ways to have a better bill here. I would support it with all my heart. There are bills before the committee. There are concepts that have been brought up by me and others. Let's bring a real jobs bill to the floor and I'll be happy to support it.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FILNER. I yield to the gentleman from Florida.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. If there are a hundred ways to perfect the piece of legislation, why have you and the minority party not offered one, not one time in our committee? And you and I have tried very diligently during the preceding months in this Congress to try to be able to keep as nonpartisan as we possibly can, but not one time have you offered anything other than rhetoric to attempt to perfect this bill. Why haven't you offered any amendments?

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, first of all, let me first say I do appreciate the efforts that you have made, very aggressively, to keep a bipartisan aura on this committee. And I think you and I have taken a whole new position than the past. We have met regularly for breakfast and for lunch. We have even paid for each other--without taxing others.

But you know as well as I do, there are other bills that should have been brought to this floor. You wouldn't bring them up. Sanford Bishop's bill, for example, which came to the committee. I endorsed it. I don't see it anywhere. You wouldn't take it up.

You know we can't get any amendments through your committee when you tell them not to vote for them. So, come on, you know the process. You decided that this is the bill that's going to happen.


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members will address their remarks to the Chair.

Mr. FILNER. I will say through the Chair that the chairman knows very well how the process works. He knows that we can't get amendments passed. He knows there are other bills--mainly Democratic bills--that are before the committee; some have had a hearing, some haven't, but they haven't been brought to the floor. We get a ``vow'' act, we don't get a ``wow'' act, we get a ``how'' act. That's what has been brought by the leadership of the committee to the floor.

Mr. Chairman, you have yielded to me; I will yield back here. Why won't you support mandatory goals for veterans or disabled veterans, as they are in legislation as goals--3 percent sometimes--for hiring? Let's make them mandatory. Do you agree to that? You asked me a question. Do you agree to mandatory goals for disabled veterans for hiring in public projects?

Mr. MILLER of Florida. I do support goals.

Mr. FILNER. You don't support mandatory goals.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. I do support goals.

Mr. FILNER. Do you support mandatory?

Mr. MILLER of Florida. I support creating jobs.

Mr. FILNER. You asked me yes or no, and now you won't say ``yes'' or ``no.''


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members should bear in mind that the official reporters of debate cannot be expected to transcribe two Members simultaneously. Members should not participate in debate by interjection and should not expect to have the reporter transcribe remarks that are uttered when not properly under recognition.

Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, I wish you would remind the chair that he asked me a yes or no. I just asked him a yes or no, and he's playing games with words.

I guess it's his time, but I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. We continue to have no more speakers and would reserve the balance of our time until such time as the minority wishes to close.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

Mr. FILNER. I thank the Speaker, and I thank the chairman.

We are good friends, and we have tried to maintain a bipartisan stance, but I disagree with the way this bill is brought forth. We have so many opportunities to increase the jobs for veterans and we're just not taking them. That saddens me. It's not partisan. We can do better. We can do better than this, and we're not taking the opportunity.

And we get all this rhetoric over the taxes, that if you don't extend the Bush tax cuts, that's raising taxes; if you don't extend the lowering of fees, that's a tax increase. Well, here the same thing is being done to a small group of veterans who can't afford it.

I'm sick of this rhetoric, Madam Speaker, that says we can't do any of this, we can't do any of this, we can't do this, we can't tax millionaires, we can't have a balanced approach to balancing the budget, but then we take on veterans who can't afford a home and increase their fees. That, for me, is the definition of hypocrisy, and that's why I'm against the bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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