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Blue Dogs Set to Cave on GI Bill?

Are the Blue Dogs ready to scrap their push to offset an expanded education benefit for post-9/11 vets? So reported The Hill yesterday:

House leaders are banking their hopes for passing the emergency supplemental spending bill on the Blue Dog Coalition caving on its demands.

Their game plan hinges on the conservative Democrats giving in and agreeing to add $52 billion to the deficit to pay for a new GI bill for war veterans.

Supporters of the expanded benefit have been stuck for weeks over how to pass their bill. In the House, the Blue Dogs have insisted that the costs be offset, which led the lower chamber to approve a half-percent tax hike on folks earning more than $500,000 a year. But that proposal never stood a chance in the Senate, where leaders quickly stripped the tax provision out before sending the bill back to the House.

According to The Hill, House leaders want that scenario to play out once more:

[T]he House will vote — one more time — on a version of the bill that includes an offsetting tax hike to pay for the college tuition for veterans. That could happen as soon as Wednesday.

Then the Senate will strip the tax hike out and send the supplemental back. Democratic aides say leaders have been assured that Blue Dogs then will drop their insistence on the so-called “pay-for.”

The news is sure to be welcomed by veterans groups, who want the new benefit regardless of whether it’s offset. But budget watchdogs have raised good questions about the unwillingness of Congress to ask taxpayers to share some sacrifice in supporting the troops. As Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, wrote last month:

Surely, proponents of this benefit do not mean to suggest that it is only worth doing if it doesn’t have to be paid for.

The White House, which was initially opposed to the new GI Bill under consideration, has shown signs that it might alter that stance. The question remains whether another vocal opponent, presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), will change his mind as well.

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