Senate passes expanded GI bill despite Bush, McCain opposition

The bill includes funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but an amendment on troop withdrawal is rejected.

Published May 22, 2008 8:28PM (EDT)

By a vote of 75-22, the Senate approved an expanded version of the GI bill today. Proposed by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., it's the biggest expansion of the bill in the past quarter-century, according to the New York Times. But it has also been opposed by, among others, President Bush and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Bush, McCain and the others who've opposed Webb's bill argue that the expanded provisions -- the government would pay tuition and expenses at a four-year public university for anyone who spent three years in the military after 9/11 -- will hurt the military's efforts to retain its troops. Bush has threatened to veto Webb's bill, and McCain introduced one of his own. He did not vote today.

The vote provoked some heated rhetoric between McCain and Barack Obama. Speaking from the floor of the Senate, Obama said, "I respect Sen. John McCain's service to our country ... But I can't understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this GI Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."

In response, McCain released a harsh -- and lengthy -- statement. "It is typical, but no less offensive, that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of," McCain said. "Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge."

The Senate also approved funding for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a domestic spending package that will be included in the war funding bill. An amendment that included language about troop withdrawal was rejected, 34-63.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Afghanistan Barack Obama George W. Bush Iraq War Jim Webb John Mccain R-ariz.