Well, he talks a good game, doesn't he? John McCain gave a speech in New Mexico yesterday on Memorial Day:
It would be easier, much easier politically me to of joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel, just as he does, we owe the veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude, it will never compensate them fully for all of the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf.
The most important difference between our two approaches is that Senator Webb offers veterans who served one enlistment, the same benefits as those offered veterans who have reenlisted several times. Our bill has a sliding scale. It offers generous benefits to all veterans but increases those veterans' benefits according to the veterans' length of service. It's important to do that. Because, otherwise, we will encourage more people to leave the military after they have completed one enlistment.
At a time when the United States military is fighting in two wars and we're finally, finally beginning the long overdue and very urgent necessity of increasing the size of the army and marine corps, one study estimates that Senator Webb's bill will reduce retention rates by 16%.
Uh no. John McCain is being dishonest (*gasp!*) by selectively citing a CBO study on the impact of the bill. McCain said the study concluded the bill would reduce retention by 16 percent. What McCain failed to mention, however, is that same study determined that the Webb bill would offset that loss by boosting recruitment by 16 percent.
This is not the first time McCain, who has a proud history of opposing what he views as excessive government spending, has found himself at odds with his fellow veterans on legislation. He's voted for veterans funding bills only 30% of the time, according to a scorecard of roll-call votes put out by the nonpartisan Disabled Americans for America. Under the same system Obama has a 90% rating — though, of course, he has spent a much shorter time in Washington. "Senator McCain clearly needs to be recognized for his military service and in some respects that will play to his advantage, but when it actually comes to delivering health care and benefits during war, Senator McCain's going to have some explaining to do," said Paul Sullivan, director of the nonpartisan Veterans for Common Sense.
Supporters of Webb and Hagel's bill dismiss McCain's concerns about the retention issue. While the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cause a 16% drop in re-enlistment rates across all four branches of the military, the same study also predicts a 16% uptick in new recruits attracted by the benefit. The bill has 58 co-sponsors, including none other than Obama — just two shy of a veto-proof majority. It was passed last week by the House with a comfortable veto-proof majority, but as an amendment to the emergency war supplemental, it could be altered as the two chambers hammer out differences between the two versions. McCain's office is confident that in the reconciliation process a compromise can be worked out. "We're negotiating in good faith and we think they are as well. We want to do something for veterans. We're really working hard to accomplish our goal," said Mark Buse, McCain's Senate chief of staff.
Hypocrite, thy name is McCain. Jonathan Singer at MyDD has more.