Last night, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) voted in favor of supplemental spending legislation that fully restores GI Bill educational benefits to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, provides emergency assistance to Americans struggling in an economy in recession, and also funds emergency disaster relief in the wake of recent tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest. The supplemental spending legislation passed the House of Representatives yesterday evening with a 416 - 12 vote.
The new GI bill expands the education benefits veterans receive to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Current GI educational benefits pay only about 60 percent of a public college education and 30 percent of a private college education. The new GI educational benefits also allow service members to transfer educational benefits to their spouses and dependents.
"America's promise to care for her returning soldiers should be a sacred bond that we uphold at all costs," said Rep. Baca. "With today's legislation, Congress is restoring full benefits to the GI bill as it was originally intentioned. This long overdue bill allows our American veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive a full, four-year college scholarship - and also provides them with the flexibility to transfer this benefit to a loved one, such as a spouse or child."
The supplemental spending bill passed by the House yesterday evening also includes Iraq policy provisions that will help to bring a change of course in Iraq. Prominent among these provisions are requirements that U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Iraqi Government, and a prohibition on military construction funds from being used to establish permanent bases in Iraq.
"America has already spent nearly $530 billion on the President's failed strategy in Iraq," continued Rep. Baca. "This responsible bill forces the Iraqi government to start taking responsibility for reconstruction activities by paying its fair share. And by prohibiting any construction funds from being used to establish permanent bases, Congress is moving away from the Bush-McCain policies of endless war and closer to a responsible end of American involvement in Iraq."
In addition, the spending bill passed by the House extends unemployment benefits for up to 13 weeks for American workers who have already exhausted their benefits. The legislation also includes a moratorium on six Medicaid regulations that would cut services to seniors, families, and those with disabilities as well as cut payments to safety net providers. Also, the bill includes $2.65 billion in disaster relief funds to ensure that critical resources are available to respond to disasters in the wake of tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest.
"American families are paying more than ever before on everything from food and gas to education and healthcare," concluded Rep. Baca. "At the same time, the economy is slowing down because of the Iraq-recession and the collapse of the housing market. People need to know that Congress will not stand idly by as Americans are suffering. The unemployment insurance and disaster relief funds included in this bill will not only assist needy Americans, but also help to stimulate the economy of local communities in the Inland Empire and across our nation."