With veterans at his side, President Obama speaks in the White House Rose… (Olivier Douliery, Abaca…)
Reporting from Washington — President Obama used his executive authority to announce a few small steps to help military veterans find jobs, part of a campaign to show that he is fighting unemployment while Congress remains in political gridlock over how to boost hiring.
Standing in the White House Rose Garden with veterans at his side Monday, Obama also called on lawmakers to pass tax credits for businesses that hire veterans — part of his $447-billion jobs bill that has largely been stalled on Capitol Hill for nearly two months.
The executive actions the president ordered will have a modest effect. They include creation of a new online service and a jobs bank to help veterans in their job searches.
But even as a stalemate over economic policy hardens between the Democrat-led Senate and Republican-run House, the veterans provision in the president's jobs plan may offer a rare point of cooperation. The proposal enjoys support among Democrats and Republicans alike, and is expected to come up in the Senate this week.
The proposed tax credits would give breaks to businesses that choose veterans when hiring. One Obama proposal would grant firms a credit of up to $5,600 for each unemployed veteran they hire, and the other would give a maximum credit of $9,600 for hiring veterans with disabilities they suffered as a result of military service.
Senate Republicans have blocked most of Obama's jobs plan, but they may find the veterans hiring credit difficult to resist. The unemployment rate among veterans in general is higher than the average U.S. rate of 9%, and the jobless rate among returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is in the double digits.
Senate Democratic leaders will seek to attach the veterans provision to one of the few pieces of Obama's jobs plan that has found bipartisan support — a proposal to repeal a forthcoming 3% tax on contractors that do business with the government.
The proposal easily won approval in the House and is likely to find favor in the Senate, where Republicans have stood unified against almost every other part of the president's plan.
To boost the veterans' provision further, Senate leaders are expected to mesh it with a House-passed bill that would provide jobs training for veterans. That bill won overwhelming approval last month in the House.
Other portions of Obama's jobs plan that Senate Republicans have objected to include the provision that would provide money to cash-strapped states to keep public school teachers and firefighters on the job and another to invest in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Republicans oppose paying for the government programs with a surtax on households making more than $1 million annually, as Democrats propose. The $1.7-billion cost of the veterans proposals would be paid for by continuing an existing Department of Veterans Affairs home loan fee, which was already included in the House-passed bill.