The House of Representatives passed a GI bill partially designed by College President James Wright that would provide tuition, room and board for veterans attending college Thursday. The bill passed in a vote of 256 to 166 as one of three measures within a larger war spending bill.
Many House Republicans opposed the bill because it includes a tax increase, and President George W. Bush has vowed to veto it. The GI bill is scheduled to be considered by the Senate this week.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who helped draft the bill, was originally concerned that the bill would funnel too much taxpayer money into the pockets of expensive elite schools such as Dartmouth, according to Wright. Wright negotiated with the bills sponsors to cap full tuition at the cost of the most expensive public university and split the cost of any additional funding between the school and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
My interest is in finding ways for more veterans to go to school, Wright said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
The GI bill, written by Warner and Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., will cost taxpayers $52 billion over the next ten years, according to congressional estimates. It would be funded by a surtax of half a percentage point on individuals making more than $500,000 or couples making more than $1 million a year.
Wright argued that the cost of the bill is small compared to that of the Iraq war. Over 10 years, the veterans bill would cost only one-tenth of the $520 billion that has already been spent on the war in Iraq, he added.
Presidential candidates Senators Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., both support the Webb-Warner bill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has introduced his own GI bill in collaboration with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., that would primarily benefit soldiers who serve multiple tours of duty.
Wright said McCains bill is inadequate because it does not cover the full cost of college and only benefits soldiers who reenlist.
It seems to me our posture as a nation cannot be to say to servicemen and -women, We do not value you unless you reenlist, Wright told The Washington Post. That wasnt the contract they signed.
The GI bill was one of three war funding bills addressed in the House Thursday.
A $162 billion funding proposal for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to pass in the House Thursday after many Republicans voted present in protest of what they saw as the secrecy of the Democratic leadership in drafting the bills.
The war funding bill would have appropriated an additional $162 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would have brought the total cost of the war in Iraq to $660 billion.
The other measure, which passed by a vote of 227-196, largely along party lines, would require the president to begin scaling down troops from Iraq within 30 days. It would also hold all branches of the U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, to the standard of enemy interrogation outlined in the Army Field Manual, which bans torture.
The decision to remove funding from the war is unlikely to last, as the Senate will vote on its own version of the bill next week before the two chambers meet to create the final version of the bill that will cross the presidents desk.