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Mr. McCain, of Arizona, a fellow Vietnam veteran, initially introduced his own GI package but has since come out in support of Mr. Webb’s. The White House, citing the addition of the transferability option, said Thursday that President Bush would not veto it.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, who is retiring at the end of this term, said Mr. Webb’s achievement with the GI bill will stand as a “hallmark.”

“He came to the United States Senate, and he indicated his top priority was to get a revision of the existing framework of laws governing the GI bill because he felt very strongly, based on his long and heroic service to this country in uniform, that we owe this generation everything that previous generations had received by virtue of educational benefits,” Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Webb said speculation about a spot on Mr. Obama’s ticket is “totally apart” from his GI Bill.

“[The bill] is just something that needs to be done,” Mr. Webb said.

Some who say Mr. Webb could appeal to blue-collar workers alienated by Mr. Obama and help the nominee carry Virginia, which has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Those opposed to his selection say the senator is too brash and averse to the campaign trail to be a successful sidekick. In a June 9 piece posted on www.slate.com, Timothy Noah called Mr. Webb “a bit of a blowhard” with a “volcanic temperament.”

“Nominating Webb isn’t worth the risk that he’ll alienate important constituencies, embarrass Obama, or break with him outright, as John Nance Garner did with Franklin Roosevelt,” Mr. Noah wrote. “He’s trouble, and Obama’s already had too much of that.”

Obama spokesman Michael Rodriguez said the Illinois Democrat “greatly respects the extraordinary service and sacrifices that Senator Webb has made for our country as a Marine, Navy secretary, and U.S. senator.”

“Early on, Senator Webb recognized the need to improve college opportunities for our returning service members, and he assembled a bipartisan coalition of senators to introduce and pass a 21st-century GI Bill,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Senator Obama is honored to serve with such a tireless advocate for our service members and veterans.”

Approval of the GI Bill also represents the culmination of a campaign promise made by Mr. Webb during his Senate bid.

Mr. Webb’s son, Jimmy Webb, is a Marine who has been deployed to Iraq multiple times, and the senator has noted that both he and Mr. McCain received their post-Vietnam educations thanks to the current GI Bill.

Aided by several of Mr. Allen’s missteps, Mr. Webb earned a razor-thin victory in the November 2006 Senate election despite critics who cited excerpts from his writings to contend the former Navy secretary did not respect women.

His victory secured the transfer of power in Congress — one reason Democrats chose him to rebut the president’s State of the Union address the following January.

“Most people who come from [outside of Congress] chafe at the pace and the process that the Founding Fathers set up,” said Brad Fitch, chief executive officer of Knowlegis — a company that provides power rankings for congressional members at the Web site www.congress.org. “Here’s a guy who not only didn’t chafe at it, he thrived at it.”