Montana’s U.S. senators and representative Wednesday praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of bills to help military veterans find jobs, just in time for their day of honor, Veterans Day.
Wednesday the Senate passed a bill 95-0 repealing a 3-percent witholding tax an some government payments to contractors, after a 94-1 vote tacked on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., tying together a group of bills to help veterans employment opportunities.
Tester called his bill, titled “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” which combined several popular proposals from both sides of the aisle, “the most significant piece of veterans’ jobs legislation since I’ve been in the Senate.
“This package has good ideas from both Republicans and Democrats,” Tester said. “Its passage is a victory that belongs to the many Montanans who came to me with concerns over this nation’s unacceptably high veterans’ unemployment rate.”
The bill now goes back to the House for a vote on it as amended. The witholding repeal passed the House 405-16.
In a press conference last week, Tester and Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., cited much-higher rates of unemployment in veterans, especially of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and high rates of homelessness in calling for united support of the bill.
Nationally, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is over 12 percent, said a release from Tester. In Montana, that figure rises to over 20 percent.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who is opposing Tester in next year’s Senate race, sent a letter to the Havre Daily News Thursday, printed on today’s Opinion Page, praising the parts of the bill to help veterans find employment.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act combines numerous pieces of legislation to provide training and opportunities for veterans, and offering tax credits to businesses for hiring veterans ranging from $2,400 to $9,600.
It also provides services to help veterans transition into the civilian workforce including job training and making it easier to get certification and licensing based on skills used in the military, and also expands other training and education opportunities.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act included pieces of legislation sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and cosponsored by Baucus and Tester, as well as parts of President Barack Obama Jobs Act.
“Today’s vote is a win for our economy, a win for bipartisanship, and most importantly the right thing to do for our veterans,” Baucus said in a press release after Thursday’s vote. “This bill will make it easier for businesses to hire veterans and help make veterans more competitive in the job market — which is particularly important in Montana because we have the fourth-highest unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the country.
“Montanans also volunteered for service in Iraq and Afghanistan at greater rates than anywhere else in the country after 9/11, and this bill will go a long way toward making sure we do right by them when they come home,” Baucus added. “I am eager to see this bill passed in the House so it can get to work for Montana.”
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was the only senator to vote against adding the amendment. DeMint voted for the bill after it was amended.
Baucus also had praise for the bill the amendment was added to, which was cosponsored by Rehberg in the House.
“Montana contractors have been hit hard by this economy and the last thing they need is another roadblock,” he said. “While we’ve got to crack down on big contracting companies that are seriously delinquent in paying their fair share, it doesn’t make sense to leave the rest of our honest hardworking contractors holding the bag. I didn’t support creating this tax in the first place and am glad we were able to get rid of it today.”