On NBC’s “Meet the Press” this morning, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) discussed his 21st Century GI Bill, which would dramatically expand educational benefits for returning veterans. President Bush, however, has vowed to veto the bill. Webb blasted Bush for this unprecedented action:
No president in history has vetoed a benefits bill for those who served. … 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. … The president has a choice here to show how much he values military service.
The Pentagon has suggested that Webb’s bill is too generous in conferring benefits to soldiers after “only” two years of service. However, as Webb pointed out, soldiers would still have to finish their enlistment term. What’s more, as a recent CBO report showed, any loss in reenlistment rates is entirely made up for by increased military recruits.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his allies have introduced their own version of the bill, which would reserve the most generous benefits for those who have served at least 12 years. Webb pointed out that it would exclude the vast majority of service members:
Seventy to 75 percent of the ground troops in the Army and the Marine Corps have left the service by the end of their first enlistment. And those are the people who are not being taken care of. … They are not getting an opportunity for the first-class education they deserve.