Speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again tried to steal credit for the 21st Century G.I. Bill, which McCain had vigorously opposed, even submitting his own proposal to undermine the chances of success for the main bill. Today, McCain told the audience of veterans that he “sought a better bill” and declared the final passage of the GI bill “the result” of his efforts:
As a political proposition, it would have much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation. But the people of Arizona, and of all America, expect more from their representatives than that, and instead I sought a better bill. I’m proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families, and better serves the interests of our country.
It is audacious for McCain to go before the VFW and claim credit for a bill he nearly destroyed, considering the VFW was one of the bill’s strongest backers. It first endorsed the proposal in June 2007, and continued to press for the bill this year, rejecting McCain’s supposed concerns about military retention and stridently criticizing his alternative proposal:
VFW’s deputy director for legislative affairs Eric Hilleman: The Graham-Burr-McCain plan is “very partisan and is seen as a way to convolute the GI bill, or to slow the Webb-Hagel proposal down.”
VFW National Commander George Lisicki: “People are leaving after their first enlistment because they are tired of being shot at, and their families are tired of the frequent deployments…Whether they stay in four years or 20, we owe this newest, greatest generation the gift of education.”
In fact, tomorrow the VFW will award Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the original sponsor of the GI Bill, a gold medal and citation of merit for his leadership on the measure. Lisicki praised Webb as the “champion” veterans needed:
The VFW had been pushing for a new GI Bill for 10 years. We had called, written, testified, and met with every (congressional) member and staffer. We were greeted with sympathetic ears, but what we needed was a champion in the corner of America’s newest ‘Greatest Generation.’ We needed someone who could reason and negotiate across party lines like a gentleman, yet push through obstacles with bulldog tenacity. That someone was Jim Webb.
McCain also promoted his radical veterans health plan, which the VFW actively opposes.
UPDATE: Watch McCain’s comments here:
Igor Volsky notes that, in his speech, McCain embraced government-run health care…but only for veterans.