In two subsequent votes, the Senate passed the war funding portion of the bill, 70-26, and rejected an amendment that contained troop withdrawal language on a 34-63 vote.
The 75-22 vote on the GI bill and domestic spending marked a resounding victory for Senate Democrats as well as Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has battled to expand the educational benefits for soldiers who served in Iraq. The measure also included a 13 week extension of unemployment insurance, home heating assistance and other domestic spending add ons. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, which will top $200 billion with the extra spending.
What was most surprising was not that the domestic funding amendment and the GI bill won a majority of the Senate votes, but that half of the Senate's 49 Republicans bucked President Bush and GOP presidential candidate John McCain to back the dramatically expanded GI bill. Many uncertain Republicans stood in the well of the Senate, taking their time to make a decision. Virtually every GOP senator who is politically vulnerable this year voted for the domestic spending, including Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
The bill now heads to the House, which must approve the war funding portion of the measure before it heads to the White House. Republicans believe they can sustain the presidential veto if the measure is sent back to Congress.