Today, three-quarters of the Senate voted to support a new GI Bill for the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Following the 256-166 victory in the House last week, the GI Bill has achieved almost unparalleled momentum. A number of Senators actually changed their NO votes to AYE, as it became clear that this vote was going to be a landslide: 75-22.
These 75 Senators stood with Senators Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel in favor of a new bipartisan GI Bill that actually covers the cost of college. As these Senators return home to honor troops and veterans during the Memorial Day recess, they can proudly point to their vote this week as proof of their commitment to our troops. IAVA thanks each and every one of them.
For the 22 Senators opposing this crucial legislation, I can only express my disappointment. For them, partisanship came before patriotism. (Three Senators were not present for the voting, including Senator Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Senator McCain, who was at a fundraising event in California.)
This was truly a historic vote, and the numbers give me tremendous confidence for the future of the GI Bill. We had a little debate at IAVA HQ about whether to call the margin "powerful" or "overwhelming" - but the real adjective is this: VETO-PROOF.
The President has threatened on multiple occasions to veto the emergency supplemental if it includes war timelines or other policy restrictions, or if it goes over his arbitrary budget cap. The Administration has also expressed objections to the GI Bill based on concerns about retention - basically, they believe that if a GI Bill benefit is too good, it'll reward veterans too richly for their service and draw them away from re-enlisting. You can read my response to that nonsensical argument here.
So with a veto threat looming, we haven't won yet. There is one final hurdle--and it is a big one: the President. When the politicians return to Washington after Memorial Day, Congress will get a final version of the war funding bill to the President, and President Bush will have to decide whether he is with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, or against them.
We've seen today that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can come together to support our troops. With your help, we can ensure the President will do the same.