New Version of the GI Bill Passed By the Senate -- Without McCain's Support

Progress for vets around the country: the Senate just passed that new GI Bill we've been telling you about!

Things got exciting (um, by Congressional standards) in the Senate this morning as a bunch of Republicans switched their votes to YES at the last minute. Sen. Jim Webb's plan to increase the amount of money veterans get to go to school passed 75-22 as part of next year's funding package for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That wide margin of victory is good news, since President Bush has promised to veto the entire thing. We're not sure if you all remember how a bill becomes a law (hello, Saturday morning!), but that's a large enough majority for the Senate to override that veto.

Of course, we are in the middle of a presidential campaign (how do you define the "middle" of something that is neverending?), so debate on the floor got mad political. Sen. Barack Obama took to the floor and criticized Sen. John McCain for not supporting this version of the GI Bill:

"I respect Sen. John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. 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. I could not disagree with him and the President more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them."

McCain, who has his own, less popular plan for funding veterans' educations was not present for the vote. He was campaigning in California, but managed to release a statement to the press:

"It is typical -- but no less offensive -- that Sen. 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. Let me say first in response to Sen. Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Sen. Obama, my admiration, respect, and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim."