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Obama OKs bipartisan veterans' legislation

WASHINGTON -- Heralding a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, President Barack Obama signed into law yesterday legislation aimed at helping unemployed veterans find work while putting more cash in the hands of companies with government contracts.

The legislation, which creates tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans, marks the first proposal from Obama's $447 billion jobs bill to be signed into law. The rest of the package of new taxes and spending has largely failed to garner support from Republican lawmakers.

"Because Democrats and Republicans came together, I'm proud to sign those proposals into law," Obama said during a signing ceremony yesterday.

The veterans' legislation had overwhelming support, with the House passing the it, 422-0, and the Senate approving, 95-0. In addition to the tax breaks for businesses, it beefs up job-training and counseling programs for unemployed veterans.

The legislation also repeals a 2006 law that would have required the federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to nearly all contractors. That statute, which doesn't take effect until 2013, was supposed to pressure contractors to pay their taxes in full, but lawmakers now say the law would deny cash to companies that need it to hire more workers.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said passage of the bill showed it is possible for the parties to reach a consensus. "Neither of these measures alone is going to solve the jobs crisis, but they'll provide relief to job creators and help American veterans," McConnell said.

McConnell praised Obama for inviting Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts to attend the ceremony. It was Brown who had introduced the 3 percent withholding bill.

-- AP

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