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Nourafshan: Worst week in Washington for American veterans

BY ALEXANDER NOURAFSHAN | SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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Following the release of Mitt Romney’s private fundraiser video, which exposed the embattled candidates’ condescending views on 47 percent of the country and his bizarrely laissez-fair Middle East policy perspective, who could have possibly had a worse week in Washington? The answer is just as surprising as it is shameful: American veterans.

Not only were veterans denigrated by the now infamous comments Mitt Romney made in the fundraiser video, as veterans are among the 47 percent of citizens who receive government benefits and assistance, but veterans also fell victim to partisan politics at both federal and state levels.

This week, the Senate voted on the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, which would have provided much-needed jobs training programs for veterans, who have an unemployment rate higher than the national average despite their superior skill sets. While the bill was expected to pass with wide-measures of bipartisan support, a Republican filibuster effectively killed the bill with a 58-40 vote.

Five Republican senators voted with the Senate Democrats, but the bill still fell two votes shorts of cloture needed to overcome the Republican filibuster. Notably, four Republican cosponsors of the bill — Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, and Richard Burr of North Carolina — all voted against their own bill, resulting in a failure of policy for Americans most deserving of government support.

To be clear, this bill should not be controversial, nor should it be viewed through a partisan lens. According to an article published by The Hill, “The $1 billion bill was to have paid for itself with new revenue over 10 years.”

The Republican critique of the act asserts that the bill could license the Veterans Administration to spend profligately in violation of the budget bill, while Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, responds that adopting this view would place a hard cap on spending, potentially limiting the ability of the VA to best serve veterans.

Democrats and Republicans both loudly proclaim support for troops; however, this vote suggests that one party might be rhetorically but not substantively supportive of Veterans interests.

This partisan asymmetry in supporting veterans is mirrored at the state level by GOP-backed voter-ID laws. As a viral-video released by comedian Sarah Silverman sardonically illustrates, voter-ID laws will disproportionately burden many vulnerable sectors of American society, including veterans.

Every inquiry into voter-fraud has conclusively proven a solution chasing a problem: There have been only a handful of confirmed instances of voter fraud nationally, and there has been no evidence proffered of any systemic attempts to fraudulently vote. Moreover, some jurisdictions have struck down newly enacted voter-ID laws as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. America already suffers an embarrassingly low voter participation rate, so why risk further diminishing participation with burdensome, demonstrably discriminatory laws, especially when those laws could adversely affect veterans?

In just a few short weeks, Americans will head to the polls to vote for representatives at all levels of government: The Republican Party should not be surprised by a potential drop in support from veteran voters in light of GOP efforts to undermine the interests of this deserving cohort of citizens.


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