Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Ted Stevens is between a Rock (screwing our Veterans...again) and a Hard Place (throwing McCain under the bus)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ted Stevens is between a Rock (screwing our Veterans...again) and a Hard Place (throwing McCain under the bus)

On Saturday, at "The Gathering" for Veterans, I had a conversation with Senator Lisa Murkowski regarding Sen. Stevens's stance against the 21st Century GI Bill. I was emphatic that he was on the wrong side of the issue and I asked if there was anything she could do to change his mind.

Interestingly enough, the answer I got from her referenced the new McCain-Graham Bill. She stated that she's absolutely insisting on a "side-by-side" of the two bills to see if it was comparable. That answer threw me off as it wasn't in response to the question I asked. The other interesting aspect is that for the first time during our conversation, Sen. Murkowski seemed a little uncomfortable.

Today, I saw the story on Think Progress discussing Sen. James Inhofe R-OK withdrawal from the Webb GI Bill after McCain introduced his alternative. (Today at VoteVets.org, Oklahoma Veterans slam Inhofe for abandoning the 21st Century Bill for McCain's watered-down version. I can imagine what the response would be if Sen. Murkowski did the same.)

Suddenly Sen. Murkowski's response makes sense. What she can do to influence Sen. Stevens now that McCain's Bill is out is probably "nothing." As a matter of fact, I'm betting that she's asking for a "side-by-side" between the two bills because she's trying to deal with pressure to do exactly the same thing that Sen Inhofe did...and that pressure would be exponentially greater if it's coming from Sen. Ted "fighting-for-my-life" Stevens.

For the first time, Ted's Senate seat is in real trouble. He's under investigations both continuing and new. He's having to answer constant questions and probes into his earmarks. Opponent Mark Begich was running almost neck-and-neck in the polls before his campaign even started.

Suddenly, the fellow Veterans Stevens often ignored have become quite important. Mark Begich has an excellent record with Veterans from his mayoral career. During the campaign, he has continued to demonstrate his enthusiastic pro-Vetaran views by attending important Veteran events and taking a strong stance on the 21st Century GI Bill.

He also points out on his website that Sen. Murkowski is also a supporter.

Begich's press conference on the Bill elicited a rather unintelligible response from Stevens:

“(Stevens) has concerns about what it may do to the retention rate,” Saunders said. Saunders said it’s now an all-volunteer force — unlike when Stevens served in World War II. The military has wartime responsibilities, and enlistment is a concern, he said.

Saunders said Stevens wants to work with the bill sponsors and Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. McCain opposes the Webb-Hagel bill and has a proposal for more modest increases in veterans’ benefits.

“When it comes to the Senate floor there will be an opportunity for compromise,” Saunders said.

So...because they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country rather than being drafted, they should get less? Stevens received the benefit from the GI Bill but doesn't want an "all-volunteer force" to get equal benefits?

Yup, Senator Stevens is in big trouble especially if he's hitched his wagon to McCain. I suspect Sen. McCain is using his alternative bill as a "manhood test" to try and yank the Republicans to him. I'd say that with the track record he has of Repubs NOT supporting him, he may be giving Progressives a really good piece of ammunition down the road. They could use this to show how ineffective he would be as President since he can't even get the support of his own party.

As proof, according to the update to the Think Progress article, there are a total of 7 senators listed as co-sponsoring this bill. However, three of them are still listed as officially co-sponsoring the 21st Century Bill - Susan Collins (R-ME), Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

Even "Uncle Ted," while talking supportively about McCain's bill, hasn't signed up as a co-sponsor yet. Could he be hedging his bets?


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