WASHINGTON — A Capitol Hill summit Tuesday on veterans employment erupted into an acrimonious and partisan debate over the government’s role in creating jobs for veterans.
The event, billed as a summit to discuss best practices for hiring veterans into the private sector, began on a testy note during opening statements when Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., criticized chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., for suggesting the government should stay out of the way of businesses that are creating jobs for veterans.
“To say we don’t have a role in this is just ridiculous,” said Filner, who was chairman of the committee until the Republicans took control of the House in January.
Miller said the “government’s role is to create a business environment” that supports job creation. “I will do everything I can to keep the foot of government off businesses that create jobs,” he added.
Filner complained that the House has not passed any bills to aid unemployed veterans this session. “Everybody says jobs, jobs, jobs, but we haven’t done anything as a Congress about it,” he said
Miller and Filner continued interrupting each other and trading barbs as representatives of 30 businesses, industries and associations who were gathered for the summit at the Cannon House Office Building looked on uncomfortably.
Speaking after Miller and Filner, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., brought a stop to most of the partisan bickering. “From an ideological perspective, I don’t give a damn who creates the jobs,” said Walz, a retired Army National Guard command sergeant major. “I just want them created.”
Nearly 1 million veterans are out of work, with double-digit unemployment rates among younger veterans, Miller noted.
Gary Profit, senior director of military programs for WalmMart, the country’s largest retailer, told the committee that the company considers veterans “a cut above the rest” in its job hunts.
“We’re talking about people who at very young ages have led people in the most challenging environment in the world: combat,” said Profit, a retired Army brigadier general.