McCain Skips Important GI Bill Vote
by Jonathan Singer, Thu May 22, 2008 at 10:32:42 AM EDT
Every time I read about the shenanigans of John McCain, I tell myself, "This is the last time I get surprised by his actions." Well, lo and behold, despite trying to rid myself of any and all expectations regarding McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has once again shocked me, this time by not only failing to support an important 21st century GI bill that would ensure that those putting their lives on the line to protect this country are justly compensated, but he went a step further and refused to even show up for a vote. Here's the DNC release:
While John McCain was campaigning and raising money in California today, the Senate voted on a bipartisan to bill to support our brave men and women in uniform by helping them pay for college when they complete their service. Unlike both Democratic presidential candidates, who took time off the campaign trail to support our troops by voting for the 21st Century GI Bill, Senator McCain refused.
Senator McCain might not have voted, but he has made his views perfectly clear. Instead of joining the 75 senators from both parties who voted for the bill and just about every major veterans group--all of which supported it--Senator McCain chose to echo the Bush Administration's opposition. Senator McCain claimed the bill would provide too much incentive for the brave men and women who volunteered to serve after 9/11 to leave the armed forces, even though a Congressional Budget Office study found that the bill's impact on retention would be offset by a matching increase in recruitment. Senator McCain offered a watered down version of the bill that would have offered a reduced benefit and required many veterans to pay out of their own pockets to receive it.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement on John McCain's refusal to support our veterans and military families:
"America's veterans and military families deserve better than a candidate who is willing to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years, but refuses to take care of them when they come home. The men and women in who volunteer to put on the uniform of the United States of America risk their lives to defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to help them be successful when they come home. While Senator McCain talks about supporting our troops and veterans on the campaign trail, his real record tells a much different story. While we honor his service to our country, Senator McCain's double talk on veterans' benefits is one more reason he is the wrong choice for America's future."
While McCain may believe that he can get away unscathed for his gamesmanship on this issue, the American people do not like it when career politicians play games with American troops. The fact that this vote occurred on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, when a significant proportion of voters are otherwise preoccupied with travel and other things of the like, might mean that this will not yet show up on the radar for many folks.
But this vote is now solidly on the record and will almost undoubtedly show up later in the campaign. If you want to get a sense at how bad of politics (not to mention policy) it is not to have supported this measure, take a look at the roll call. Virtually every Republican in a competitive or potentially competitive reelection campaign this fall voted in favor of the legislation, including hard right conservatives like John Sununu of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Ted Stevens of Alaska, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi (as well as faux-moderates like Gordom Smith of Oregon, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and Susan Collins of Maine). The only "no" votes from potentially endangered incumbents came from Texas' John Cornyn, who is an unabashed and entirely unrepentant conservative, and Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, who likely felt obligated to vote with the stragglers within the GOP caucus on account of his position as Minority Leader.
Yet despite the fact that the vast majority of the Republican Senators who will be on the ballot this fall realized that it would be an act of extreme political malfeasance and tone deafness not to vote in favor of this important legislation, McCain not only would not vote for the measure, he went a step further and refused to show the courage or moral surety to even show his face on the floor of the Senate at the time of the vote to make his voice heard on the issue. Oh yes, this is a problem for McCain, one that will likely dog him all the way through election day.