McCain sides with Bush, opposes new GI Bill

Despite calls from veterans' groups, McCain sides with White House against bipartisan education bill for the troops.

By Steve Benen
April 15, 2008 11:25PM (UTC)
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Just a few days ago, appearing on ABC's "The View," John McCain talked about the importance of increasing the size of the U.S. military. To entice more volunteers, he said, the government should focus on incentives: "[O]ne of the things we ought to do is provide [the troops with] significant educational benefits in return for serving."

Naturally, then, McCain indicated a few days later that he'll withhold support for a bipartisan measure to renew and expand the GI Bill for a new generation of veterans.


Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, seemed to give a thumbs down to bipartisan legislation that would greatly expand educational benefits for members of the military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan under the GI Bill.

McCain indicated he would offer some sort of alternative to the legislation to address concerns that expanding the GI Bill could lead more members of the military to get out of the service.

Both Democratic presidential candidates -- Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. -- have signed on as co-sponsors, and the bill has gained bipartisan support from 55 senators on Capitol Hill. A vote on the proposal is expected before the summer.

But the bill, which would dramatically increase educational compensation for American troops, has run into some unexpected resistance, both at the Pentagon and now from McCain, who has remained silent on the issue, saying he had not studied the bill close enough.

McCain's opposition comes a day after petitions from 30,000 veterans arrived at McCain's Senate office, urging him to support the modernized bill to offer veterans more money towards a college education.

But the reason for the opposition is especially ridiculous. Bush administration officials, and apparently McCain, "worry that a more generous and expansive GI Bill would create an incentive for troops to get out of the military and go to college."


Just last week, Wesley Clark and Jon Soltz highlighted why this is nonsense: "[I]t is morally reprehensible to fix the system so that civilian life is unappealing to service members, in an attempt to force them to re-up. Education assistance is not a handout, it is a sacred promise that we have made for generations in return for service."

Regrettably, McCain doesn't see it that way.

Steve Benen

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