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One of the Senate's chief deficit hawks complained Wednesday that politicians were making false promises of jobs to veterans by discussing a bill that will never become law — and would provide only temporary work for veterans if it did.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was referring to S 3457, the Veterans Job Corps Act, which would devote $1 billion over five years to creating law enforcement, firefighter and conservation jobs for veterans.
The underlying idea is that once veterans are trained, some would find permanent employment.
The measure, a pre-election priority for President Obama, was brought to the Senate floor for consideration without going through the normal legislative process.
But Coburn noted that the legislation is "not going anywhere in the House of Representatives" and charged that "what we are really doing is passing a bill for political reasons."
The Senate took up the measure on Tuesday after a 95-1 procedural vote to at least begin debate, but it is unclear if any amendments will be considered or when a vote on final passage might come.
Coburn said he doesn't see the need for another expensive program like this. "We already have six veterans' job programs. Not one of them has a metric on it to see if it is working. There has not been one hearing to see what the jobs program that we are running now are doing.
"Is this about veterans or is this about politicians?" Coburn said. "I suspect it is about politicians. I suspect it is about elections, not veterans."
Veterans already have hiring preference for permanent government jobs, he said, which are better than the temporary positions envisioned under the Veterans' Jobs Corps bill.
Coburn also complained that the measure is aimed at post-9/11 veterans but not other generations. "This is blatant discrimination," he said. "One class of veterans is better than another class of veterans? Tell me how. Is somebody that died in the Vietnam War less honorable than somebody who has given their life in Afghanistan?"
Rep. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the bill's chief sponsor, said Tuesday that the measure is aimed at post-9/11 veterans because the unemployment rate in August for this new generation of veterans is 10.9 percent, higher than the 6.6 percent jobless rate for all generations of veterans.