Vulnerable GOP Senators Running Scared, McCain Embraces Bush On GI Bill

Yesterday, as part of a war funding bill, by a 75-22 margin the senate passed an expanded GI Bill, which would

...cover the full cost of in-state public tuition, room, board and supplies, while encouraging private institutions to help 21st-century vets with their education bills. In contrast, the current benefit -- the Montgomery GI Bill -- is capped over four years, leading critics to argue that it's insufficient to cover the ever-rising expense of a secondary education.

The bill would also extend full education benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves.

The current benefit allows under $40,000 over four years, not nearly enough to cover even a state school. Yet to almost half of the Republicans in the senate, including John McCain, expanding the benefit to cover four years of college for returning veterans who've served at least three years of active duty, is way too generous and would encourage people to {gasp!} leave the military to go to college. Oh the horror!

...McCain took to the Senate floor to blast the Webb-Hagel bill (S. 22) for discouraging troop retention -- a central fear for an all-volunteer military already stretched thin by two on-going conflicts.

"While I don't think anyone disagrees with the overall intent of S. 22," McCain said, "I believe we can and should do more to promote recruitment and retention of servicemen and women."

Which, as usual, is identical to the Bush position.

Backing that assertion has been the Bush administration, which shot out a letter to McCain's office Tuesday outlining the reasons it opposes the Webb-Hagel bill. Chief among them, the White House says the proposal doesn't allow service members to transfer their benefits to family. Also, the administration contends, it would encourage troops to hang up their boots to pursue educations.

Supporters of the bill, which, it should be noted include co-sponsors and Vietnam veterans Chuck Hagel and Jim Webb, as well as fellow veteran John Warner, say the increased recruitment that would result from the benefit contained within the bill, would make up for any losses.

Supporters of the Webb-Hagel bill also reject the retention criticisms, arguing that any problems with retention related to an enhanced education benefit would be overshadowed by the recruitment the benefit would promote.

"I share concerns about retention in this time of war," said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a veteran of World War II. "We cannot retain those who we can't recruit."

John McCain actually did not return to Washington on Thursday to vote on the bill, but has expressed his opposition and instead has sponsored an alternate measure, one that increases monthly tuition benefits by less than the Webb/Hagel bill does and allows transferability of benefits only after a minimum of several years in service; in other words, the most generous benefits would accrue only to career military.

Interestingly, although hardly surprising, is the extent to which Republicans in the senate fled the Bush/McCain position and joined Democrats to support funding full college benefits for returning soldiers. It's especially notable to look at who was among the 25 Republican senators to do so.

Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

In other words, 7 of the most endangered Republican incumbents in the senate, who, I'm sure know it's the right vote, but also know they're vulnerable this year and fear being targeted with ads like this one from VoteVets:

A few years ago I wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me that in 2008 it would be the Republicans running scared on military issues.

Update [2008-5-23 14:55:24 by Todd Beeton]:Notice that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is not among the Republicans up for re-election this year who voted for the expanded GI Bill. Today, Democratic challenger Rick Noriega wasted no time in hitting Cornyn hard for refusing to vote with our veterans, launching a petition demanding that Cornyn vote to override Bush's promised veto of the bill:

Yesterday, the Senate voted 75-22 in favor of the bipartisan New GI Bill to cover full in-state tuition at public universities for veterans. This is fantastic news for our men and women in uniform, whose service should be honored with the education benefits they were promised.

Unfortunately, you are just one of 22 Senators to oppose the New GI bill that passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, and is supported by most leading veterans organizations. You've also signaled your support for a presidential veto that would block expanded benefits for veterans.

Supporting our troops is about more than photo opportunities and speeches. Our brave men and women give their all on the battlefield and they deserve our full support when they return home. We have an obligation to our veterans to ensure that they receive the same sort of education benefits that their grandparents received after World War II.

We're so close to passing the New GI Bill into law, and you still have a chance to do the right thing. I urge you to override President Bush's veto against the New GI Bill.

Sign the petition HERE.

[editor's note, by Todd Beeton]Fixed the petition link.

Tags: GI Bill, Jim Webb, John McCain (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

It's also worth noting...

... that being criticized on this issue caused McCain to go completely ballistic.

by Purplepeople 2008-05-23 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: It's also worth noting...

He's going to lose a gasket sometime soon... The anger is really showing throw...  I hope that during the debates, he just goes off in a Zell Miller tirade!

by LordMike 2008-05-23 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: It's also worth noting...

We have to keep making him flip out. Getting angry once in a while is good in politics, but when people see McCain going up like a torch a few times a month they'll back off from him.

by MNPundit 2008-05-23 11:55AM | 0 recs
Help Jeff Merkley beat Gordon Smith

As a former supporter of Steve Novick, I now support Merkley 100%.

Here is an excerpt from an email Novick sent out to his supporters:

I am looking forward to talking to and seeing you in the future without asking you for money. But since that has become such a habit, there are two causes I would like to draw to your attention. Jeff Merkley did a great job winning back the State House for us; he was a darned good Speaker, delivering solid victories on issues ranging from payday loan sharking to labor law reform; and he will be a heck of a United States Senator. But we need to help him get there. I encourage all of you to donate to Jeff's campaign. Yes, the DSCC helped him a lot, and will continue to do so--but they can't do it all!

Novick shows a lot of class after his defeat.

by Lefty Coaster 2008-05-23 10:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Help Jeff Merkley beat Gordon Smith

It's because he believes in the party first, personal ambitions second... I wish there was another certain someone that would feel the same way...

by LordMike 2008-05-23 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Help Jeff Merkley beat Gordon Smith

Let's not count her out of that category just yet. It might be appropriate in early June if things continue, but for now...

by minnesotaryan 2008-05-23 11:09AM | 0 recs
This is Great News

The question is whether we will be able to override a veto.  Count me skeptical regarding whether we keep all these GOP votes when the issue comes up again.  

Oh, and I agree that McCain has not come accross well at all lately.  I really think Obama has been able to get under his skin, which is fantastic.  Especially since just about nothing really ruffles OBama's feather.  I like that contrast during a General Election.  

by HSTruman 2008-05-23 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: This is Great News

Yep.  That's part of Obama's plan to win - which becomes even more effective as the race goes on and people are paying more attention.  Needle McCain ever-so-slightly, let that legendary temper build up, and then ask if you want this guy to have his finger on the button.

by mistersite 2008-05-23 11:12AM | 0 recs
Wow

I can't believe Roger Wicker's name is on that list.  I never thought he'd abandon the RNC.  But I guess his poll numbers match that expectation.

by The Distillery 2008-05-23 11:05AM | 0 recs
And now the veto override

That will be a very interesting list. We should definitely turn up the heat on anyone who abandons ship on the veto, which they undoubtedly will.

by Purplepeople 2008-05-23 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Vulnerable GOP Senators Running Scared, McCain

God I hate Norm Coleman. That is all.

by minnesotaryan 2008-05-23 11:09AM | 0 recs
great post, great update

thansk for posting on this most crucial subject.

Rick Noriega continues to be a great American!

by catchaz 2008-05-23 11:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Vulnerable GOP Senators Running Scared, McCain

Minnesotaryan I agree with you!! The fact that Norm replace the LATE GREAT PAUL WELLSTONE also tears me apart because Paul would have never voted the way Coleman has voted over the years.

by nzubechukwu 2008-05-23 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Vulnerable GOP Senators Running Scared, McCain

That's exactly why it's hard to gain traction with Coleman, he has votes he can point out going against Bush to blunt any lock-step republican attacks. And with his lower profile he's one of the more in-offensive Republicans (though that's not saying a lot) in terms of media profile.

What do you think, is Ciresi going to get back in?

by MNPundit 2008-05-23 11:57AM | 0 recs
Coleman is a first order tool

Remember how he held hearings that attempted to tarnish the UN and Iraq War skeptics of being on the take from the oil-for-food program.

Fucking asshole!

by Carl Nyberg 2008-05-23 12:01PM | 0 recs
Awesome.

Lets keep them on the run!!!  Thanks for the news, Todd.

by lollydee 2008-05-23 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Vulnerable GOP Senators Running Scared, McCain

Mitch McConnell voted against it.

http://barefootandprogressive.blogspot.c om/2008/05/mcconnell-votes-against-veter ans-again.html

by MediaCzech 2008-05-24 01:00PM | 0 recs

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