May 15, 2008, Washington, DC – Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a bill by John McCain that would have increased college aid for military veterans because they said it doesn’t go far enough and would serve only as political cover for the GOP presidential candidate.
Republicans offered McCain’s bill as an amendment to legislation that would give police officers, firefighters and other first responders the right to unionize. The Senate voted 55-42 to kill the amendment.
“I am surprised Sen. McCain would support a move that is meant as a direct slap in the face of our nation’s finest and bravest,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
McCain, R-Ariz., proposed his GI bill after Democrats pitched a more ambitious plan that would essentially guarantee a full scholarship to any public, in-state university after serving in the military for three years. Democrats are pushing their proposal, introduced by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., as part of this year’s war spending bill.
The Pentagon opposes Webb’s bill because it says in part that providing such a large benefit after only three years of service would hurt retention.
Accordingly, Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Burr, drafted an alternative that would cap the maximum monthly benefit at $1,500, an increase from the current $1,100 stipend.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said Republican maneuvering on Wednesday was intended to protect McCain from any political fallout from opposing Webb’s GI bill.
“He said it’s too generous to give the same benefits to today’s warriors returning from conflict that we gave to those returning from World War II,” said Durbin, D-Ill. “I think that’s a very difficult position to defend.”