WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) distinguished himself Thursday as the only senator to oppose a measure aimed at hiring veterans, calling it a "trick" by the Obama administration and Democrats.
He knew his decision wouldn't be popular, but still cast the lone vote against an amendment to grant employers tax breaks worth up to $9,600 for giving a veteran a job.
"I know what I'm about to discuss won't be very popular. I'll probably be accused of not supporting veterans by the politicians pandering for their votes," DeMint said on the Senate floor Thursday. "But I'm not going to be intimidated to vote for something that may make sense politically but is inherently unfair."
In fact, it did not take long for Democrats to point out DeMint's vote to reporters, in case they missed it.
DeMint argued that passing such a tax break was simply catering to an interest group and predicted little hiring would come from the measure. "Despite the overwhelming evidence that these tax credits do not stimulate hiring for targeted groups, the Obama administration continues to push Congress to pass another tax credit, this time exclusively for veterans," he said. "By using a politically sensitive group the day before Veterans Day, the Democrats are hoping they can trick Republicans into further complicating the tax code."
None of DeMint's Republican colleagues agreed with him. Indeed, they held up the legislation as an example of bipartisanship aimed at addressing the unemployment crisis.
DeMint later voted in favor of the larger bill to which the veterans amendment was added, a measure to delay a 3 percent withholding tax that was supposed to help the federal government crack down on contractor fraud. That bill passed unanimously, 95-to-0.
In another twist in the odd world of Congress, DeMint had been one of a large majority of senators who voted for that 3 percent withholding tax in 2005. Then it had been aimed at federal contractors who failed to pay their taxes; the 3 percent essentially served as collateral to ensure the companies paid up.
But with the economy in the tank, legislators on Thursday deemed it an impediment to hiring.