The 40 Republican senators in Congress love to talk about our veterans.
They call them heroes. They call them brave warriors. They say that they are forever in their thoughts and in their prayers.
They speak about them often and always in reverent tones. They promise that they will always be taken care of when they finally return home from whatever god-forsaken battlefield to which they’ve been sent in order to protect our precious freedoms and American way of life.
Then the 40 senators voted on the $1 billion, Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012 – a fully paid-for, bipartisan piece of legislation that would have put thousands of veterans back to work tending to the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments.
And when the 40 voted, when they got the chance to walk the walk, they turned their backs on everything they have said to or about veterans. When 40 Republican members of the U.S. Senate voted to deny help for the heroes and warriors they routinely celebrate on the stump, those veterans became just another collection of casualties in another sort of war.
Politics Trumped Sound Legislation
When the senators voted to block passage of S.3457, it didn’t matter that in this long, drawn out economic downturn the unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan hovers around 11 percent – 3 points higher than the general population. It didn’t matter to these 40 U.S. senators that more than 720,000 veterans are unemployed across the nation, including 220,000 who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001.
For in the dysfunctional, hypocritical quagmire of a battlefield that is the U.S. Senate, scoring partisan political points in the midst of a particularly divisive, bitter, amoral and increasingly profane election season is the overriding strategy of the war. You know, the war that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is waging to make Obama a one-term president.
And a tactic in that war is to never cede any legislative ground to the enemy (better known as the Democratic Party), or allow them any partisan victory. And in the increasingly undemocratic U.S. Senate, 60 votes are now necessary to get anything done. 58-40 just doesn’t cut it.
So even if it’s our veterans that get in the way of doing what the 40 Senators believe they were “sent there to do” – well there is such a thing as collateral damage.
Do Republicans Really Care?
But make no mistake. This is much worse than that.
This is even worse than the recent spate of Americans shot to death by the very Afghan forces they are trying to train in a country that will never be tamed. This is worse, because this time our service men and women were laid low by their own countrymen on their native soil.
This time, 40 senators dropped a bead on thousands and thousands of the very heroes they swore to care for, support and reward. In the pitiful, picayune and puerile battle for political advantage that passes for government in present day America, this time our veterans were shot in the back by unfriendly fire.