On his first day in office in January 2007, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, intended to be “a mirror image of the WW II G.I. Bill.” A new version with broad bipartisan support was introduced in February to help fund education for service members who had served in active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Veterans would receive education benefits equaling the highest tuition rate of the most expensive in-state public college or university and a monthly stipend for housing.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America hailed Webb’s bill, calling educational benefits “the military’s single most effective recruitment tool” and emphasizing that “an expanded GI Bill will play a crucial role in ensuring that our military remains the strongest and most advanced in the world.”
Today, The Hill reports that Webb is still waiting for an important co-sponsor who could help push other Republicans to approve the bill: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):
“McCain needs to get on the bill,” Webb told reporters after a Christian Science Monitor breakfast meeting on Wednesday. He said legislation mirroring the post-World War II GI bill should not be considered a “political issue.” [...]
Webb’s bill has 51 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, said he may have to get 60 co-sponsors to ensure Senate passage, but then added that many more Republicans could vote for the bill if McCain endorsed it.
McCain prides himself on being “a tireless advocate of our military.” Yet this is hardly the first time that Webb has taken McCain to task when it comes to veterans’ advocacy. In September, McCain refused to support Webb’s bill to ensure service members get adequate time at home between deployments. McCain castigated the effort, declaring he “hoped” Congress would reject the bill because it “would create chaos.”
McCain boasts on his website that he “fought to extend the availability of G.I. bill education benefits for Vietnam veterans.” Yet he has been notably silent on extending those same benefits to today’s veterans. Perhaps, like the Pentagon, he is resisting the bill “out of fear that too many will use it.”
McCain has repeatedly voted to funnel billions of dollars to fund the war in Iraq, whose costs along with the war in Afghanistan, according to some experts, have already totaled more than $3 trillion. By contrast, the cost of the new G.I. bill is projected to be about $2.5 billion a year — roughly the cost of U.S. operations in Iraq for one week.