The Courage To Not Lead
Under his bill, which has attracted three dozen other sponsors, the government would resume paying full college tuition for these veterans for a period linked to their times in uniform, but for no more than 36 months or four academic years. Every eligible college veteran also would receive a check for $1,000 a month to help cover living expenses.
This would cost the government about $2 billion a year, which is about what we're presently spending every 36 hours in Iraq.
Of course, there's major opposition to the bill. From the Commander Guy who is getting the troops killed and maimed for his endless disaster in Iraq.
President George W. Bush and the Pentagon oppose any such improvement of this miserly benefit for our young veterans. Why? The president says it would cost too much and be too hard to administer, and he's threatened to veto Webb's bill if it ever passes.
And, of course, as also previously noted, one of the Pentagon's worries is that granting educational opportunities might discourage the troops from reenlisting.
The Pentagon says that if you offer more realistic college benefits, too many troops might decide to leave at the end of their enlistments and take advantage of it. And that, they say, would only make it even harder to find and enlist enough recruits to man our wars.
Because it's important to keep the troops in indentured servitude. Because that's how much Bush and the Pentagon value them. Well, they may have company. As pointed out by Sam Stein:
The 21st Century G.I. Bill may be included in the language of the next Iraq war supplemental. And while, if considered separately, it could require 60 votes for passage, more than 50 Senators -- including many Republicans -- have already signed on as co-sponsors.
And yet, surprisingly, one of those Senators who has not yet offered his support is John McCain. How could a veteran of Vietnam and someone widely touted as Congress' foremost champions of veterans' affairs not sign on to a largely bipartisan, uncontroversial measure? (Both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are co-sponsors).
A member of the organization Student Veterans of America asked the presumptive GOP nominee that very question several months after Webb and Hagel wrote their op-ed.
"I have not had the chance to examine it carefully," he said. "It seems to me that it is a good thing to do. But I haven't examined it with the care that it needs. But we obviously need to do something along those lines."
Sounds good. Democatic Senator Webb is sponsoring it. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is sponsoring it. Both Democratic presidential candidates are co-sponsoring it.
To this day, however, McCain has not signed on. Those committed to the legislation say they hold out hope and some expectation that he will ultimately back the measure (whether it be through co-sponsorship or a simple 'yes' vote). But the Senator's lack of leadership on the topic has been telling.
"John McCain needs to be on this bill," Webb said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "I have said to him several times that this is not a political issue -- this is about providing a fair, deserved benefit to our troops. Based on his own military history and how strongly he speaks about the positive contributions of the people who have served, I hope that he will get on board and support this new GI bill."
And there's little opposition, within the Senate. So, why hasn't McCain found time to sign on?
The real hang-up for McCain may be the fact that the Bush administration has resisted the legislation.
And we know that McCain dare not oppose the Bush administration. The good news is that the bill is likely to pass. The sad news is that it may do so without any help from McCain. Maverick, indeed.
UPDATE: Wes Clark posted on this at MyDD. Sign his petition.