(RTTNews) – President George W. Bush signed into law a $162 billion bipartisan plan to finance war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Monday, praising Congress for their work and bringing the total provided by lawmakers for the wars to $850 billion.
Citing specific congressmen, Bush thanked Congressmen John Boehner (R-OH), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Dave Obey (D-WI).
He also thanked five Senators whom the President said, “worked hard for the GI Bill expansion,” one of the hallmarks of the funding. Bush offered special thinks to Senators Jim Webb (D-VA), John Warner (R-VA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain (R-AZ).
However, McCain had opposed the 21st century GI Bill of rights that was endorsed by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), instead offering his own version.
Commenting on the new GI Bill, Senator Webb said, “This bipartisan coalition consistently rejected the allegations of this Administration, and of Senators McCain, Burr and Graham, among others, who claimed that the bill was too generous to our veterans, too difficult to administer and would hurt retention.”
Nonetheless, McCain praised the legislation in a recent appearance in Ohio.
In a statement praising the legislation, the American Legion offered thanks to several Congressional officials, although they did not thank McCain as Bush had in his address.
“Legionnaires are especially grateful to Sen. Jim Webb for authoring the Post-9-11 Veterans Education Assistance Act that led to today’s new GI Bill,” said Marty Conatser, national commander of The American Legion.
“There were many others in Congress that labored to achieve this success, and we particularly salute Sens. Harry Reid, John Warner and Chuck Hagel and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Leader John Boehner for their leadership,” Conatser added.
From The Carpetbagger Report:
[…] Bush said, “…I want to thank members who worked hard for the GI Bill expansion — especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain. This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to stand behind our troops and their families.”
The chutzpah involved with such a pronouncement is truly breathtaking.
First, the Bush White House publicly opposed the GI Bill expansion. The president ended up reversing course when lawmakers ignored his demands and passed the bill anyway — by a veto-proof majority (75 votes). It left Bush in the untenable position of signing into law a bill he actively fought against, or vetoing a measure to help give veterans better educational benefits. He wisely chose the prior, but his comments this morning made it sound like Bush wanted the GI Bill expansion all along. The opposite is true.
Second, and more importantly, the president praising McCain for his “hard work” on this bill is a special kind of stupid.
McCain not only opposed the GI Bill expansion, he fought against it. Indeed, he bragged that his opposition to the bill was evidence of his character. Just one month before the bill passed, McCain said, “It would be easier, much easier politically for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation.” But the AP noted, “McCain said he opposed Webb’s measure because it would give the same benefit to everyone regardless of how many times he or she has enlisted.”
McCain went so far as to say the GI Bill expansion would literally “hurt the military.”
Chuck Hagel was an original sponsor of the bill, the president ignored him altogether. (Talk about a slap in the face….)
Now, the right will argue that McCain, Graham, and Burr deserve praise because they worked with House Republicans to water the bill down a little before final passage.
And all of this, of course, comes just a few days after McCain took credit for the passage of a bill he fought every step of the way.