Sen. Mike Johanns, during a conference call with Nebraska reporters, defended his vote against a bill designed to put post-9/11 veterans back to work.
The bill would have created a Veterans Jobs Corps to hire Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to work on federal public lands projects. It fell two voters short of the total needed to clear a procedural hurdle and come before the entire Senate for a vote.
Johanns said he favored the concept.
“The substance of the bill, to me, was not the problematic part,” Johanns told reporters. “In fact, some ideas that I had were incorporated in the bill. So, my feeling was that this bill was ready for favorable action.”
Johanns, a Republican, accused Democrats of placing a poison pill in the bill, forcing Republicans to vote against it.
“The poison pill here is that they took money to pay for the bill from committees of other jurisdiction, in this case the Finance Committee,” according to Johanns. “That’s clearly illegal. There just isn’t any gray area here. There was no doubt about it.”
Johanns claimed a vote in favor of the bill would have violated the Budget Control Act. He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, refused to allow the Senate to consider an amendment that would have resolved the objections raised by Republicans.
Democrats accused Republicans of not wanting to give President Obama a Congressional victory prior to the November 6th elections.
Not so, said Johanns, who claimed Democrats orchestrated the vote to give them an election-year issue to use against Republicans.
“I think, very unfortunately, this was staged for defeat,” according to Johanns. “They knew they were going to force people into violating the law to vote for the bill. They didn’t allow amendments to fix it. So, at the end of the day, that’s the choice you had.”
Other Republicans objected to the price-tag, a total of $1 billion over five years, and questioned how it would be paid for.
The main provision of the bill was the creation of the Veterans Jobs Corps, an effort to put Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to work. The jobless rate among veterans is 10.9% while the overall unemployment rate is 8.1%.
AUDIO: Sen. Mike Johanns defends vote against veterans jobs bill during conference call. [6:30]