- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Democrats blocked a bill by Sen. John McCain that would have increased college aid for military veterans because they said it didn’t go far enough and would serve only as political cover for the Republican presidential candidate.

Republicans offered Mr. 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.

Arizona’s Mr. McCain was on the campaign circuit and not present for the vote.

“This vote is a message to Bush-McCain Republicans that the U.S. Senate will not stand for political games at the expense of our nation’s first responders and veterans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Mr. McCain 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 of Virginia as part of this year’s war-spending bill.

The Pentagon opposes Mr. Webb’s bill because it says in part that providing such a large benefit after only three years of service would hurt retention.

Accordingly, Republican Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina drafted an alternative that would increase to $1,500 from $1,100 the monthly benefit available to most veterans. The stipend would increase to $2,000 a month after 12 years of service.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said the Republican maneuvering was intended to protect Mr. McCain from any political fallout for opposing the bill.


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