Herald-Leader Editorial

Ky. senators let down our vets

Jobs bill fell just two votes short

September 25, 2012 

Both Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul helped kill a plan that could have helped create jobs for the 3,000 unemployed Kentucky veterans who served their country in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The proposal fell short by just two votes of the 60 required to clear a procedural hurdle erected by Republicans in the Senate last week.

So the votes of the two Kentuckians really could have made a difference.

The measure would have helped train and employ military veterans as police, firefighters and first responders, and would have created a Veterans Job Corps to work in reforestation, historic preservation and resource management on public lands.

We had hoped that Kentuckians in Congress would work to include a provision enabling the Veterans Job Corps to also reforest private lands that have been strip-mined in Appalachia.

If not in the Senate, the modification to include Appalachian reforestation could have been made in the House, where Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, carries a lot of clout by virtue of his seniority and chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Rogers' district would benefit hugely from scaling up the Green Forests Work initiative based at the University of Kentucky.

Alas, even a bipartisan bill to help veterans stumbled on the sharp partisanship that has been the hallmark of this Congress, and the jobs-for-vets bill didn't even make it out of the Senate.

Republicans used a point of order to block it, saying the measure violated the 2011 Budget Control Act that placed caps on discretionary spending, even though the jobs bill included revenue-raising measures to pay for itself.

The bill was supported by all 53 Democrats and five Republicans, including a couple who have tough re-election races. But the 58-40 vote wasn't quite enough to overcome the objection.

Senate Veterans Affairs chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., told her colleagues: "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 young veterans are out of work, despite the fact that veterans' suicides are outpacing combat deaths and despite the fact that more and more veterans are coming home, we are not going to invest in these challenges."

The unemployment rate for young male vets last year was 29 percent.

That's no way to say thank you.

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