From the Washington Post:
"The Senate today approved $165 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into the next presidency, but in a break with President Bush, it also approved billions of dollars in domestic spending and a generous expansion of veterans education benefits. (...)
The 75-22 vote surprised even the measure's advocates and showed clearly the impact of the looming November election on Republican unity. Senate Republicans who face reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by other Republicans who quickly jumped on board.
It was a clear rebuke to Bush, who has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic spending to his $108 billion request to fund the war. The White House opposed the expanded G.I. Bill, concerned that the price tag was too high and the generous benefits could entice soldiers and Marines to leave the overburdened military rather than reenlist."
This is really great news. Good for Jim Webb for pushing it; good for the Senators who voted for it. The roll call is here.
In somewhat related news, during the debate on this bill Barack Obama said: "I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this GI bill." I thought that was a pretty innocuous statement, myself. But it seems to have gotten to McCain, who shot back a long response which falls somewhere on the spectrum running from caustic to downright bizarre. It begins:
"It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim."
I do not, and never would, question either John McCain's personal heroism or his admiration and respect for veterans. If I hadn't just gone and looked up his record on veterans' issues, it would not occur to me to wonder whether that admiration and respect had actually translated into action. But I did, and it didn't. That made me somewhat less sympathetic to the condescension that followed, and less inclined to take McCain's recitation of his family history as showing much of anything.
I particularly liked the part about the responsibilities of the Presidency being so serious that a person of conscience cannot take the politically easy route. No doubt that explains why McCain has refused the temptation to support making permanent the tax cuts he once called irresponsible:
"Contrast this with McCain 2001, who said, quite correctly, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief." Or McCain 2003, who called further tax cuts "irresponsible," adding, "At a time of war, at a time of economic stagnation, at a time of rising national debt . . . one might expect our national leaders to pursue policies calling for shared sacrifice to achieve shared benefits. Regrettably, that is not the case." Or McCain 2004, who said, "I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.""
No doubt it also explains why McCain never resorted to cheap political gimmicks like temporary cuts in the gas tax, or misrepresenting negotiation as appeasement. That would be to take the politically easy route, instead of taking his responsibilities seriously. And John McCain would never, ever, do that.