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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks at the Utah Conference for Seniors in Salt Lake City, Aug. 20, 2012.

WEST JORDAN — Senate candidate Scott Howell called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan and criticized Sen. Orrin Hatch for blocking a bill that would provide jobs for veterans.

"Hatch said, in essence, 'Thanks for wearing the colors, now you're on your own,'" the Democratic challenger said Wednesday with four former servicemen behind him at Veterans Memorial Park. "What Hatch has done is un-American."

The Veterans Job Corps Act would have offered grants to federal, state and local agencies to hire veterans, giving priority to those who served on or after 9/11. Senate Republicans, including Hatch, blocked the bill in a procedural vote last week.

Howell said the bill would have lowered unemployment among veterans. New revenue would have covered the cost of the program and it would not have added to the national debt, he said.

"There's no reason on earth to block this bill," he said.

A Hatch spokeswoman called it "budget-busting" legislation that would have increased spending.  

"Instead of backing a bill that would have spent a billion dollars our nation doesn’t have, Hatch backs common-sense legislation to bring real jobs and greater retirement security to our veterans put forward by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.," said Heather Barney.

Burr introduced alternative legislation that includes several veterans job-training initiatives but removes the provision establishing the job corps.

Hatch also introduced an amendment that would have increased the cutoff age from 37 to 47 for veterans to join federal law enforcement.

"This would give our deserving veterans not only meaningful jobs but also an opportunity to complete their 20 years of service and qualify for their hard-earned retirement with full benefits,” Barney said.

Howell called Hatch's vote on the veterans jobs corps bill "obstructionism."

"Every Utahn should be as furious as I am that Orrin Hatch could not find it in his heart to support our veterans by helping them get back to work," he said.

Howell also said it's time U.S. troops be removed from Afghanistan immediately. President Barack Obama has to step up and keep his commitment that they be withdrawn by the end of his first term, he said.

"He has let us down on that," Howell said.

Obama has endorsed a 2014 withdrawal.

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