Joseph Sabino Mistick: Low blow
Just when you thought partisan politicians could not sink lower, nearly the entire Republican caucus of the U.S. Senate delivered a low blow to the economic midsection of America's military veterans. By filibustering the Veterans Jobs Corps Act before adjourning, these GOP senators torpedoed the hopes of those Americans whose hallmark is selfless sacrifice.
Some of the bill's opponents quickly claimed that supporting the filibuster was not the same as voting against the bill itself, but American voters are not that stupid. By a vote of 58-40, more than a majority of senators wanted the bill to move forward, but in the bizarre world of the Senate, 60 votes are needed for anything to happen.
Other Republican senators claimed they voted to kill the program because there was no defined way to pay for it. If that is the proper test, all of our soldiers could have refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, because those wars were not paid for and have been fought on credit.
Based on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression, the program would have matched veterans with public-works and public-safety jobs for which they have already been trained. This is not “make work” because, in communities across the land, these jobs are ready for our veterans and our veterans are ready for these jobs.
While the jobs program originated in the Obama White House, the administration knew how difficult it would be to attract Republican support in a rabidly partisan presidential election year. As a result, GOP senators were asked to contribute their ideas in order to reach a compromise for our veterans.
Pennsylvania's Sen. Pat Toomey was among Republicans involved in crafting the bipartisan bill before he voted to kill it, along with the hopes of returning veterans for a more certain economic future. At the end of Toomey's day, craven partisan politics trumped veterans' needs.
These Republican senators may not remember the World War II and Korean War veterans who headed off to factories gratefully and with dignity every day after their wars. And they may not recall the struggle of buddies back from Vietnam who successfully reinvented themselves as the nation transitioned from heavy industry.
On Veterans Day, think of the sacrifices of our troops first, but do not forget about those senators who voted to kill this bill. Next Memorial Day, remember and honor those Americans who volunteered for war, willing to sacrifice all, but do not give a pass to those senators who have failed them.
And the next time you see a news clip of American warriors being embraced by family members upon their return to native soil, remember that their future is now more uncertain because of those senators who slithered away when given the chance to express the gratitude of a nation.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).