On Monday, June 30, President Bush signed into law landmark legislation introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) to provide post-9/11 veterans with comprehensive educational benefits. Last week, the legislation was overwhelmingly passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate.This is a crushing victory for Jim Webb over President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, both of whom opposed this legislation at every step of the way (more about this later).
Senator Jim Webb introduced this bill eighteen months ago on his first day in office. The bipartisan measure-- principally cosponsored by Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and John Warner (R-VA), has unprecedented support from all major veterans' organizations, in addition to strong bipartisan support in Congress, with a House vote of 416 to 12, and a Senate vote of 92 to 6.
The following is a statement from Senator Webb:"This is a great day for our veterans. This bill properly provides a modern and fair educational benefit to address the needs of those who answered the call of duty to our country--those who moved toward the sound of the guns--often at great sacrifice.
"Eighteen months ago, we began with the simple concept that those who have been serving since 9/11 should have the same opportunity for a first class educational future as those who served during World War II. Today, we have accomplished that goal.
"I would like to emphasize that this is not simply an expansion of veterans' educational benefits. This is a new program, a deserved program. It has now been nearly seven years since 9/11 -- seven years since those who have been serving in our military began earning the right for a proper wartime GI Bill.
"We have delivered this new, robust GI Bill with a great deal of collaboration and cooperation among members of the Senate, members of the House, and with the guidance and support of all of our nation's leading veterans' groups.
"It also gives me confidence and renewed hope that the Congress can begin working more effectively across party lines to do the work of the people."
For now, I am just going to relax and bask in the knowledge that I--along with man, many others--contributed in my own very small way to electing Jim Webb to the U.S. Senate. You have done us proud Senator Webb: keep up the good work.