WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly agreed to debate President Barack Obama's Veterans Jobs Corps legislation, which would provide $1 billion over the next five years to hire Sept. 11-era veterans for public works jobs and give them preference for police and firefighter positions.
Veterans from the Sept. 11 era have a consistently higher unemployment rate — 10.9 percent for August — than the national rate of 8.1 percent.
The vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor was 95-1. Democrats led the effort, which came on the 11th anniversary of the terror attacks. While Republicans agreed to a debate, it is unclear if they will vote for the bill.
Republicans have opposed any new taxes and may be uncomfortable imposing a levy on tax-delinquent Medicare providers and suppliers, which would cover part of the cost of the Vets Jobs Corps. GOP senators also want a chance to offer amendments.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the bill's author, said passage was the least Congress could do for veterans. "These folks have already done the tough, tough jobs," said Nelson, who is in a re-election battle against Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV.
Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said he would vote to begin debate but said veterans are struggling to find work because of Obama's "failed policies."
Job centers would be established, providing veterans with computers and Internet access to search for work. States would be required to consider the skills and training vets acquired in the military for professional certification and licensing programs.