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Vets Up Pressure on McCain to Support GI Bill

The pressure on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to endorse an expansion of the GI Bill keeps getting stronger.

Last week, VoteVets.org, a veterans advocacy PAC, launched a video urging the likely GOP presidential nominee to support the proposal. Featuring testimonials from soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s getting tens of thousands of hits on YouTube, while an accompanying petition has gathered almost 25,000 signatures.

Then on Wednesday, former NATO commander Wesley K. Clark joined VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz to pen a piece in The LA Times applying similar pressure.

The original GI Bill transformed American history, providing education for returning soldiers … But the original GI Bill has become woefully outdated, to the point where the average benefit doesn’t even cover half the cost of an in-state student’s education at a public college.

McCain has said repeatedly that he supports the idea of expanding the education benefit for Iraq and Afghanistan vets, but hasn’t had time to read the bill. That response, while not believable, is not rare either. (The same question posed to the Department of Defense and the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week brought the same dodgy reply.)

Clark and Soltz were incredulous, and called on McCain to get reading.

It’s hard to believe that neither he nor anyone on his staff has had time to read such an important bill, which has been around since before he started running for president. But, even if true, McCain must do the right thing now, when his leadership is needed.

The topic has put McCain and other Republican leaders between a rock and a hard place, forcing them to weigh whether to oppose the bill and risk being labeled unsupportive of the troops, or endorse it and risk giving the Democrats an enormous legislative victory in a contentious election year.

We should soon know the answer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants to pass the new GI Bill before Memorial Day. That deadline, it seems, will be no symbolic help to opponents of the effort.

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