For anyone following the fight for a new GI Bill, progress seemed to slow to a crawl recently. After the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the veterans' education benefit as a part of the war funding supplemental, reconciling their two versions of the legislation faced serious and unexpected roadblocks. And even if Congress got the GI Bill to the President, the threat of a Bush veto was always looming.
Last night, all that changed. A critical agreement has been reached between leadership in the House of Representatives and the White House on the fate of the war funding bill.
In a very rare reversal of opinion, the Bush administration withdrew their long-held objections to a new GI Bill that would fully fund the cost of a public college education for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The bill agreed on includes the entire World War II-style GI Bill that IAVA has been championing for over a year. The final bill will also allow service members who stay in the military to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children. This is another great, bipartisan step towards providing our veterans with the benefits they have earned.
And the forward momentum continued today, when the House again voted in favor of the new GI Bill, supporting the bill by an overwhelming margin of 416 to 12. You can see the complete roll call here.
The next (and hopefully final) steps in the GI Bill fight will be for the Senate to sign off on this version of the supplemental and get this hard-fought legislation to the president's desk. You can follow these last steps at www.GIBill2008.org.
This Sunday, June 22nd, will mark 64 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the original GI Bill into law. Thanks to this accord between House leadership and the administration, there is now a real chance that we could see a new GI Bill signed within days of this anniversary. As FDR said in his signing statement,
"[The GI Bill] gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down."
Though we still have a way to go, I believe that the fight for this new GI Bill will be remembered as a great example of Washington choosing patriotism over partisanship.