It's great to be guest blogging here at C&L, one of the blogs I check every day. Yesterday, the Senate passed the Webb-Hagel GI Bill with an overwhelming majority, which was no small feat. VoteVets.org had been in overdrive to support this bill, getting members to write over 16,000 letters to the Senate, over 1000 letters to the editor, and gathering over 30,000 signatures on a petition in support of the bill.
Oh yeah, and we ran these ads.
I think we hit a nerve. Senator Lindsey Graham went ballistic in a press conference, calling it "a stupid ad," while Senator John Cornyn on the floor of the Senate twice called the ad "phony." His spokesperson oddly maintained that we veterans were using ourselves as a political football.
Oh, speaking of football, John McCain skipped the vote on the bill. He was out in California raising money at events held by Alex Spanos, the owner of the Chargers. I love money and football as much as the next guy, but sometimes you need to have your priorities right in life. So, I'd put education benefits for troops ahead of raising cash and talking about the benefits of the 4-3 defense over the 3-4.
Anyway, back to the action on the Hill; if Senators opposed to the bill were a nuclear power plant, they had a meltdown. A complete meltdown.
Honestly, though, I can see why. How do you go back to your constituents and tell them that you're not going to back a bill that simply keeps the old GI Bill of Rights current with the cost of education? How do you tell them that it's too generous to give our troops full education benefits, and you only will give them a fraction? The short answer is that you don't.
That was what these Senators hoped to avoid, when they signed on to the watered down bill crafted by Senator McCain. What they didn't count on is that we'd expose their sham bill right at the starting gate.
Now, the bill has one final vote to pass in the House, and then it will go to the President, who has voiced opposition to the bill. I expect him to veto it, probably citing the other spending included in the bill. And then it will go back to Congress, where both Houses have passed the GI Bill with a veto-proof majority.
Once again, it will be up to us to set the stage for the debate, before the President's allies in Congress do. They'll try to blur lines, conflate arguments, and anything else they can do, to create an opening for Members to uphold the veto. We cannot let that happen. VoteVets.org will be right there, as active as ever.
I hope we can count on all of you to join us. Together, we can show who really supports our troops