Jim Webb, (who is one of my picks for VP) makes an excellent case for his GI Bill on MTP this morning and calls out the GOP on their negligent behavior and the threatened Bush veto. John McCain and George Bush say they support the troops, but when it comes to stepping up and doing something tangible, they are striking out. How dare they say these benefits are too costly when we're spending millions of dollars a day to occupy Iraq? And as Webb says, this will be used on the campaign trail. And a watered down substitute by McCain and his pal Graham is not the solution.
Webb: No president in history has, has vetoed a, a benefits bill for those who've served. So on the one hand, we have this rhetoric, which goes to what I was writing saying, "This is the next greatest generation, these guys are so great." And then we see this president, he's fine with sending these people over and over again where they're spending more time in Iraq than they are at home. He's fine with the notion of stop loss, where we can, we can make people stay in even after enlistments are done. And then we say, "Give them the same benefit that the people in World War II have," and they say it's too expensive.
Think Progress has more:
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.
Full transcript via MTP below the fold:
SEN. WEBB: I introduced this G.I. bill my first day in office. The idea was to give to people who'd been serving since 9/11 the same educational benefits, the same right to a first-class future as those who served in World War II. We, we started working hard on this bipartisan, nonpartisan, hopefully; we have now got 58 sponsors in the Senate, 300 sponsors in the House of Representatives, and a, and a good number of the, you know, the thinking Republicans have moved to us.
And now the president says he's going to veto this bill. No president in history has, has vetoed a, a benefits bill for those who've served. So on the one hand, we have this rhetoric, which goes to what I was writing saying, "This is the next greatest generation, these guys are so great." And then we see this president, he's fine with sending these people over and over again where they're spending more time in Iraq than they are at home. He's fine with the notion of stop loss, where we can, we can make people stay in even after enlistments are done. And then we say, "Give them the same benefit that the people in World War II have," and they say it's too expensive. So I think the Republican Party is, you know, is, is on the block here to, to clearly demonstrate that they value military service or suffer the consequences of losing the support of people who've, who've served.
MR. RUSSERT: The Pentagon, the administration and other editorials across the country have said the problem with the bill is that if, after three years people can leave with full benefits, it'll be very difficult to retain good soldiers, to have them re-enlist.
SEN. WEBB: Well, I, I would say to them that three years of accumulated service qualify you for the benefits, but you still have to serve your enlistment. I spent five years in the Pentagon--one as a Marine, four as a defense executive. I did manpower issues the whole time; I know how these formulas work. We have, as co-sponsors on this bill, John Warner, former chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Carl Levin, current chairman of the Armed Services committee; Chairman Akaka of the Veterans committee; Senator Specter, former chairman of the, the Veterans committee; Chuck Hagel, the only senator to have served as a senior official in the Veterans Administration. We know what we're doing and, and we are not going to harm the military.
What you have is 70 to 75 percent of the ground troops in the, in the Army, in the Marine Corps, have left the service by the end of their first enlistment. And those are the people that are not being taken care of. The Department of Defense does a very good job of taking care of the, the career force, but this large number of people, the overwhelming majority of people who are out of the military, that come in because they love their country, they do a hitch and then they want to get on with their lives, they are not getting the opportunity for a first-class future that they deserve.
MR. RUSSERT: Will this bill, you think, if the president vetoes it, be an issue in the campaign? The presidential campaign?
SEN. WEBB: I, I would say the president really has a choice here and--to, to show how much he values military service. And if he were to veto this bill, I can't see how it would not become an issue in the campaign. What we want to do is get a bill--and I've been, I've been trying to keep the politics out of it. I've working--been working really hard to keep the politics out of it. We want to get a bill where Democrats and Republicans can come together. And I've, I've listened to all the veterans' organizations, I've, I've listened to other members of Congress and, and made modifications in this bill, and I think it's a very fair bill.