May 21, 2008

Once in a while, it’s hard to keep a good bill down — especially when it involves expanded benefits for the troops, during a war, in an election year.

The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a new GI bill and billions in new domestic spending as part of the $165 billion Iraq war funding bill pending before Congress.

The 75-22 vote marked a resounding victory for Senate Democrats as well as Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has battled to expand the educational benefits for soldiers who served in Iraq. The vote was the first critical hurdle in a three vote package on the Iraq war funding bill. The measure also included a 13 week extension of unemployment insurance, home heating assistance and other domestic spending add ons. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, which will top $200 billion with the extra spending. […]

What was most surprising was not that the domestic funding amendment and the GI bill won a majority of the Senate votes, but that half of the Senate’s 49 Republicans bucked President Bush and GOP presidential candidate John McCain to back the dramatically expanded GI bill. Many uncertain Republicans stood in the well of the Senate, taking their time to make a decision. Virtually every GOP senator who is politically vulnerable this year voted for the domestic spending, including Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

It’s interesting how vulnerable Republicans suddenly start to notice the merit of Democratic legislation six months before Election Day, isn’t it?

In all 25 Senate Republicans broke ranks with Bush/McCain to support the measure, giving the bill a veto-proof majority. Even Lieberman voted for it. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke in favor of the bill and voted for it. McCain, who has repeatedly said he opposes the measure, decided to raise money in California and skipped the vote. All 22 “nay” votes were conservative Republicans.

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