Just over an hour ago, the Senate voted overwhelmingly — a veto-proof 75-22 — to approve Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) 21st Century GI Bill, which would expand educational benefits for veterans who joined the service after Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the vote, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced his own watered-down, paltry version of the GI bill, exhorted President Bush to veto the measure, as he has indicated he will. Graham also insisted that his Republican colleagues would “get rewarded in the next election” if they vote against GI benefits:
This is a defining moment for the Senate, for the Republicans, and this war. I can tell you if we leave the generals alone and support our troops, they will win this war. And to my Republican colleagues, if we’ll stand firm for a fair procedure and a sensible solution to the veterans’ problems, we will get rewarded in the next election, not punished. If we give into this, we don’t deserve to be here.
– 81 percent of Americans say that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting enough support in transitioning back to civilian life.
– 91 percent of Americans support providing these veterans with a funded college education for their service.
– More than 8 of 10 Americans support a comprehensive 21st Century GI Bill.
– 83 percent of Americans believe that a new 21st Century GI Bill will benefit America.
Graham claimed today, “If we just leave the generals alone and support the troops, they will win this war.” But the nation’s most respected veterans organizations are joining average veterans to clamor for this bill. Just yesterday, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars joined the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the American Legion in support of the bill.
As Webb said last Sunday, “The Republican party is on the block here, to clearly demonstrate that they value military service or suffer the consequences of losing the support of people who’ve served.” Citing Orwellian “support” for the troops, Graham appears willing to sell them out for partisan gain.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who frequently touts his devotion to his fellow veterans, skipped the vote today to hold a swanky fundraiser in California. By contrast, both Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) spoke on the floor in favor of the bill before voting for it.