This vote was on whether to kill an amendment by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would have increased educational benefits for military veterans from $1,100 per month to $1,500 per month. It also would have required 12 years of service for the maximum benefit of $2,000 per month, with increases tied to the consumer price index. Additionally it would have allowed National Guard and Reserve members to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend collective bargaining rights to public safety employees in states where that is currently prohibited.
Graham said his amendment is intended to help retain people in military service for longer with better educational benefits.
“Not only are we going to give more money to those who serve and leave—a very generous benefit—we are also going to put money on the table for the first time in the history of the GI program to reward those who stay. Most people who serve 20 years are going to come out with a college degree they earned in the military without ever using their benefits. The ability to transfer the benefit to a family member is enormous. Again, it will allow the retired pay—of those who go to 20 years—to have much more bang for the buck. They will have their college paid for,” Graham said.
Graham, who is closely aligned with presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., offered it on McCain’s behalf. Democrats accused Graham and Republicans of attempting to use their platform as senators to, in essence, highlight one of McCain’s key campaign issues. They also charged that the amendment was just a less generous version of a veterans’ education measure introduced by Jim Webb, D-Va.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the maneuvering was simply a distasteful attempt to boost McCain’s bid for the presidency.
“There’s a lot of things we can do to bring the presidential politics to what is going on here on the floor,” Reid said. Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., accused McCain and Graham of hijacking the bill over an unrelated issue. Reid then moved to table (kill) the amendment, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 55-42, the Senate killed the amendment. All but six Republicans present voted to retain the amendment. Every Democrat present voted to kill it. The end result of this vote is that the amendment that would have increased military educational benefits was killed, but a Democratic version of this legislation continued to be debated.