Friday, May 16, 2008

New GI Bill Clears House; Battle Moves to Senate

House leaders found a way to appease members of the Blue Dog Democrats and overwhelmingly passed the new GI Bill yesterday by a vote of 256-166, as an attachment to the Iraq war emergency supplemental bill.

Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was forced to pull the war funding bill from the schedule when some Blue Dog members, citing the “pay as you go” budget rules, threatened to revolt.

To offset the $51.8 billion that would be spent over the next decade for veterans’ education, Democrats proposed adding a one-half percent income tax surcharge on individual incomes above $1 million.

The Iowa delegation voted along party lines. Democratic Reps. Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley, and Dave Loebsack voted in favor of the amendment.

“For too long our country has not lived up to our promise of serving our nation’s veterans with the same honor, commitment and dignity with which they have so bravely served our nation,” Congressman Loebsack said in a statement. “By restoring GI benefits, we will be offering 1.7 million brave men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan educational benefits on par with those provided to veterans of the World War II era. Not only will this strengthen our military, it will also make the heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan part of a new American economic recovery, just like after World War II.”

On the other side of the aisle, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill, voted against the measure.

Latham supports the legislation’s passage as a standalone measure, his communications director Fritz Chaleff told the Iowa Independent in a statement. “He feels that it should, as any legislation considered by Congress, go through the democratic process of full committee hearings and debate before being considered by the full House,” Chaleff said. “Unfortunately, the eventual success of the measure is threatened because of the irregular and politically motivated process in which it was brought up.”

“Congressman Latham will continue to fight for this legislation through the regular established process that follows the very same solid democratic principles that America’s veterans fought and served to protect,” Chaleff said.

House Democrats overwhelmingly passed the bill despite President George W. Bush’s veto threat, and now the bill moves to the Senate, where it needs four more votes to meet the veto-proof threshold.

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