Wednesday September 19, 2012 | 10:13 PM

WASHINGTON -- A bill to help military veterans find jobs upon returning to civilian life was defeated in the Senate on Wednesday, another apparent victim of the partisan disagreements over spending and job creation in Washington.

Senate Democrats tried to get the 60 votes needed to move forward with a bill -- called the Veterans Jobs Corps Act -- that would have funded training to help veterans land jobs as forest and park rangers, police officers, firefighters or within other targeted professions.

But Republicans balked at the bill’s $1 billion price tag, arguing the measure violated spending limits established last year in the Budget Control Act. Some Republicans also apparently objected to the fact that amendments were not allowed to the bill.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were among five Republicans who joined all of the Senate Democrats to cast votes in support of proceeding with the bill. The bill still fell two votes short, however.

Speaking afterward, Collins said she did not believe the financial objections were valid because the costs were offset by spending reductions included elsewhere in the bill. She said the bill attempted to match up work that needs to be done in, say, national parks with the skills of returning veterans.

“There is a serious problem with unemployment for our returning veterans,” Collins said. “I am very concerned that people who have served our country … or have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq are coming home and are finding that they can’t get jobs.”

The veterans’ advocacy organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America blasted Wednesday’s vote, accusing Congress of allowing “partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work.”

“Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year,” Paul Rieckhoff, the organization’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Election politics should never stand in the way of creating job opportunities for our nation’s veterans, especially with an official 10.9% unemployment rate. We hope constituents, veterans and their families across the country will hold the Senate accountable for this failure.”


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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