Just before adjourning for a long and undeserved vacation until after the election, the Senate killed the Veterans' Jobs Corps bill. If the US Congress needed another reason to be despised by the people it purportedly represents, it now has one.
The unemployment rate of veterans is at least 35% higher---and by some measures 50% higher---than that of the general population. The irony, of course, is that veterans have had responsibility and authority way out of proportion to their youth and are more qualified than their contemporaries to tackle complex tasks and to complete them with efficiency. So, jobs for veterans isn't charity, and all endeavors can benefit from their skill, resourcefulness and discipline.
But even if their value were only that they have served us in unpleasant circumstances at a time when nobody else has felt the obligation to do so, veterans should receive some consideration for their uncommon sacrifice. The Senate disagreed and killed the bill by refusing to terminate a filibuster that was the roadblock to a floor vote. It is quite astonishing to consider that some Republicans who contributed to the drafting of the bipartisan effort actually voted against it, and now the bill is dead.
The complaint against the measure was its $1 Billion cost, not a trivial concern. However, it is difficult to swallow the Senate's objection to cost when it squanders many more billions on nonsense, and in any case, the cost of the program would have been offset by additional revenues. Even so, it was scuttled by a procedural finesse that took advantage of the odious rules that the Senate has established to preclude any progress on any measure.
In this case, it looks like the real objection was the probability of handing Obama a legislative victory in a term largely bereft of them. This is a tough election year, and although many polls give Obama an edge, there are still six weeks to go, and anything can happen. In this kind of environment, the slightest advantage is contested with a ferocity seen in few other arenas, and one should not be shocked that elected officials can be so bloody-minded. Disappointed, yes. Disgusted, yes. Shocked, decidedly not.
This Congress has largely ended its feeble effort in our name. It will re-convene briefly after the election, but no substantive progress will be made then, either. The next Congress will be seated to a full, nearly indigestible plate. Having demonstrated the inability to act on issues of bipartisan agreement, it is unnerving to consider how it will deal with problems, like the budget mess, that are fraught with difficult choices and few nodes of potential compromise.
Some expect that because the election will be over, the motivation to be petty and irresponsible will have disappeared. But no matter who wins the White House race, no matter who holds the largest number of seats in Congress, we should all be concerned that the nation's important business will continue to be handled in an inexpert, adolescent and self-serving manner. It's four years until we pick another president, and two years until the next Congressional election, but even that appears to be insufficient time for an institution with no sense of responsibility.