The give-and-take that Congress employs in passing legislation Ī even legislation that enjoys significant favor ó has at least temporarily postponed a measure that deserves to be law. Itís an expanded education benefit for veterans who enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001.
Veterans organizations have been among many who have long supported a change in the GI Bill that was passed last week by the House on a 256-166 vote. The House bill would impose a 0.47 percent tax surcharge on the wealthiest Americans to allow eligible veterans to attend any in-state public university on a full scholarship and receive a monthly housing stipend.
Even though the education benefit passed, the overall legislation to which it was attached, a new war-funding measure, was blocked by Democrats who opposed the Iraq war and by Republicans who oppose other spending items included in the bill.
The House is expected to take another look at this soon, however, after the Senate acts on its own version of the bill. Senate leaders have expressed a preference for adding the cost of the new GI Bill to the Iraq war deficit, which is already has already topped the $600 billion mark. After all, that deficit is growing so rapidly, why should another few million dollars be of concern?
But the House billís method of funding this veterans benefit has some symbolic value that should not be missed, and itís one reason way the House concept has merit. The sacrifice Americans have been asked to make as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wear on has not been equally shared. Our military forces, their families and close friends have given disproportionately to other Americans, many of who have prospered incredibly during ó if not as a direct result ó of the war. It should not be a burden for one citizen who earns $500,000 a year, or a couple who earns $1 million, to add that fraction of a percentage to income tax payments.
The House and Senate will probably negotiate the number of years of service ó whether itís three or six ó and the income threshold for the wealthy, but this change in the GI Bill needs to happen. And doing so as the nation is observing Memorial Day would be appropriate.