As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Don't Mess With The VoteVets

I am kind of dumbfounded with John W. McCain's insistence that the GI Bill only get passed on his terms, with minimal benefits, instead of honoring the service of those he finds so honorable. I don't see the positives behind McCain going into states with large military populations like Virginia and North Carolina and proudly telling them that he cut down on their education benefits. It's not a large expense and it's part of the cost of war. It certainly makes more sense that some Cold War weapons system with a massive cost overrun.

Turns out that McCain has a history of shortchanging veteran's health care.

"Times have changed since McCain needed veterans services so urgently. And for many of those thirty-five years, McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, the candidate who talks the best talk on veterans issues, has demonstrated a tendency to work against veterans' interests, voting time after time against funding and in favor of privatizing services--in other words, of rolling back the VA's improvements by supporting some of the same policies that wrecked Walter Reed.

During a March 2005 Senate budget debate, McCain voted to kill an amendment that would have "increase[d] veterans medical care by $2.8 billion in 2006." That amendment lacked an assured funding stream, but lest one mistake this incident for a maverick's stance against budget-busting, there's more. Just a year later McCain voted against an amendment that would have "increase[d] Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes." Two days after it failed, he voted to kill "an assured stream of funding for veterans' health care that [would] take into account the annual changes in the veterans' population and inflation to be paid for by restoring the pre-2001 top rate for income over $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy." That amendment died quietly, forty-six to fifty-four.

In September 2006 McCain voted to table an amendment to a Defense appropriations bill that would have prevented the department from contracting out support services at Walter Reed. The amendment was indeed tabled--by a vote of fifty to forty-eight, the sort of margin a true veterans' senator might have been able to flip if he really cared about veterans' healthcare.

Hilzoy has a lot more and comes to the same conclusion by checking through votes from the past several years.

The reason you don't cut people off unless they serve 12 years, as McCain wants to do, is that those who suffer physical or psychological infirmities still deserve the rewards that ought to come with service. The GI Bill is an economic engine, but it's also a moral imperative.

McCain has made a big mistake here. He's raised the ire of VoteVets.

Sen. Barack Obama, McCain's most likely general election opponent, already has raised objections to McCain's resistance. And on Tuesday, a veterans' group that has been critical of the war in Iraq is launching an ad in Washington to pressure McCain to change his mind.

By taking issue with McCain on the subject of veterans, Democrats hope to weaken one of his biggest assets — his personal biography as a former Navy pilot who became a prisoner of the North Vietnamese and endured torture at the hands of his captors [...]

Other veteran's groups--from Veterans of Foreign Wars to the American Legion--support the Democratic bill. But VoteVets, which has been aggressive in its criticism of Bush's war policies, is the first to take McCain on directly.

"He's trying to run interference for the White House with a watered down bill," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of "How could this not be an issue in the presidential campaign if he doesn't vote for this bill? There is no way for this to go away if he votes against it."

The ads are here. They're powerful.

There's a separate ad targeting John Cornyn in his race against Afghanistan vet Rick Noriega.

This was just stupid. McCain's twisted vision of bipartisanship, where everyone has to line up behind him, is coming back to bite him in the ass.

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