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Public Statements

Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, I would remind all the Senators, we are here on the floor on a very important bill on the Veterans Jobs Corps, and I wish to thank my colleague from Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, for his tremendous leadership and passion on the issue of making sure our veterans get back to work, at a time when they have a 20-percent-plus unemployment rate, and for his work on this bill as we move to this point.

I have been listening to the debate on this bill, and what I have heard are some pretty weak arguments against the merits of this legislation. I have heard we have not held hearings on the employment or on the provisions of this legislation.

The Senators who spoke may not have known--they are not on our committee--but, indeed, we have had hearings on employment both last year and this year and on this bill. Veterans groups and the VA at multiple hearings, in fact, have had multiple opportunities to give their views. The COPS and SAFER Grant Programs in this bill have been around for years, and we know they work.

On the point I heard reiterated here, that the bill was not paid for, violated pay-go, as all bills that come before the Senate, this bill is fully paid for. It does not violate pay-go rules.

We are going to have a vote shortly on a point of order on this bill. A vote to support the point of order, plain and simple, says we spend enough now on our veterans.

That is what it says: We spend enough on our veterans. A vote to support this point of order says that despite the fact that we have paid for this bill, despite the fact that one in four of our young veterans is out of work, despite the fact that veteran suicides are outpacing combat deaths, and despite the fact that more and more veterans are coming home today, we are not going to invest in those challenges. It says we have done enough.

This point of order puts a price on what we as a country are willing to provide our veterans and says we are not going to do a penny more. It is a point of order that not only will kill our ability, I will tell my colleagues, to pass this bill, but it will also affect every effort we make to improve the lives of our veterans going forward.

In fact, just last week we held a markup in the Veterans' Affairs Committee. We passed a slew of bills in a bipartisan fashion. Those were very important bills to improve mental health access, to give students new tools so they can maximize their GI benefit, and, importantly, it would give veterans who have lost their ability to start a family access to fertility services. All those bills, under this, would be subject to a point of order, as would, of course, countless other bills introduced by Senators on both sides of the aisle. There is no end in sight, I would tell everyone, for how long this point of order could be raised.

We have to consider, as we vote, the lasting effect of this vote that we are about to take. We should all consider the fact that veterans are watching this vote very closely.

(Mr. FRANKEN assumed the Chair.)

Mr. President, this is a bill that has been endorsed by the American Legion and by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They know, as I do, neither party has a magic bullet for this problem of employment, and we should be taking good ideas from both sides of the aisle, which is exactly what we have done with this bill that is before us. This bill includes 12 different provisions to help create veterans jobs. Eight of them are ideas that have come from Republicans. In fact, to make this bill even more inclusive and more bipartisan, we took Senator Burr's entire alternative bill and added it to our bill.

At every turn we have sought compromise. But instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance. Instead of saying yes to nearly 1 million unemployed veterans, it seems that some on the other side of the aisle have spent the last week and a half seeking any way to say no.

It does not have to end this way for our unemployed veterans. We can join together and pass this bill.

Mr. President, as you have heard me say, our veterans don't ask for a lot. My own father never talked about his service. The veterans whom I meet across the country do not want to be seen as dependent on government. But we owe them more than a pat on the back, sending them out to the world when they come home. We owe them more than bumper stickers and platitudes. We owe them more than procedural roadblocks, which is what we will vote on shortly, that will impede our ability to provide them not only help now but into the future.

We owe them action. We owe them real investments that will help them get back to work, and that is what this legislation does. It does so because putting our servicemembers back to work is a cost of war. Putting our veterans back to work is a cost of war, just like their health care and benefits. It is part of what we owe the less than 1 percent of men and women who sacrificed for the 99 percent who did not.

It is no secret that this is not the easiest time of year to get a bill passed.

It is too easy to point to the calendar here and level accusations about politics against one another. But in my two decades working on veterans issues here in the Senate, I have seen veterans issues rise above politics time and again, even when it seemed our backs were against the wall. I have seen Democrats and Republicans come together, and they have done so because there is one group of Americans who do not care about the calendar or how many days we are out from an election; that is, our unemployed veterans. What they care about is finding work in their communities, finding work that gives them the self-esteem they need today, and finding work that helps them provide for their loved ones. We can do that today.

I urge my colleagues to join with us in waiving this point of order, to join with us in telling our veterans we are not done investing in their care and benefits, not by a long shot. Join with us in moving forward with a bill that is paid for, that will not add to our deficit, and that should not be killed by procedural games. Join with us in putting veterans above political obstructionism and back to work.

I yield the floor and yield back any time that remains.


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