WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats harshly criticized U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., on Thursday for reversing course on legislation they say would have helped unemployed veterans find work.
Democrats thought Boozman was on board after they added several Republican initiatives to the bill, but he joined the majority of Republicans in opposition.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has also come under fire for statements he made Thursday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program defending his party’s action.
Coburn derided what he called budget gimmickry he said Democrats used to claim they had offset additional spending with equivalent reductions.
The bill, which would have established a $1 billion Veterans Jobs Corp., was blocked on a procedural vote Wednesday that fell two votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed for passage. The vote was 58-40.
The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 10.9 percent in August.
All Democrats voted for the bill, joined by five Republicans. There were 40 Senate Republicans in opposition and two that did not vote.
Boozman and three other Senate Republicans — Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Richard Burr of North Carolina — had as of last week been supporting the bill, according to the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Democrats on Twitter, Facebook and other social media have gone after the four Republicans for voting to spike the bill.
“Four Republicans should be called out for duplicity at the expense of veterans,” wrote Democrat Robert Bowen on Examiner.com, saying they “enticed Democrats to fill the bill with Republican amendments” only to renege and kill the bill.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said it was “shocking and shameful” that Republicans chose to kill a bill that would put veterans back to work.
“This bill includes 12 different provisions to help create veterans jobs — and eight of them are ideas that have come from Republicans,” she said. “At every turn, we have sought compromise. But instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance.”
Boozman spokeswoman Sara Lasure said the senator had hoped to support the legislation but in the end he could not because it increased spending beyond the limits imposed by last year’s deficit reduction agreement.
Lasure also disputed the claim that Boozman had agreed to back the bill after GOP initiatives were added to it.
“Sen. Boozman was never consulted on the addition and not part of the negotiation process for this legislation,” she said.
The bill included a pared down version of legislation he introduced to expand a Transition Assistance Program for veterans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., claimed Republicans were blocking the measure simply because it was supported by President Barack Obama.
“My colleagues have played politics with all types of common sense measures,” Reid said. “But blocking a veterans’ jobs bill is a new low.”
Obama had proposed a Veterans Jobs Corp. program during his State of the Union address.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America blamed both sides for failing to help thousands of young veterans find work.
“This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the nonprofit group. “We hope constituents, veterans and their families across the country will hold the Senate accountable for this failure.”