Today, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) voted in favor of supplemental spending legislation that fully restores GI Bill educational benefits to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, pushes the Bush Administration to change direction in Iraq, and provides emergency assistance to Americans struggling in an economy in recession. The supplemental spending and Iraq policy restrictions passed the House in two separate votes taken this afternoon.
The new GI bill included in this supplemental legislation will restore full, four-year college scholarships to all 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 bill is fiscally responsible, and fully paid for with an income tax surcharge of one-half of one percent on individuals with incomes above $500,000 and couples with incomes above $1 million.
"As Americans, we make a simple promise to our veterans: you have taken care of us, now we should take care of you," 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 every American veteran who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive a full, four-year college scholarship."
The supplemental spending bill passed by the House today also includes Iraq policy restrictions that will help to force the Bush Administration to change course in Iraq. Provisions of these policy restrictions include a responsible redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq that would begin within 30 days of the enactment of the legislation, with a goal of completing withdrawal of combat troops by December 2009. Besides a responsible redeployment of our troops, the Iraq restrictions also:
* Require that U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Iraqi Government.
* Call for U.S. forces in Iraq to receive the same low fuel prices that Iraqis are paying.
* Prohibit the U.S. from establishing permanent bases in Iraq.
* Require that all U.S. troops meet the Pentagon's definition of "combat ready" before they can be deployed to Iraq; and
* Crack down on U.S. contractors in Iraq engaging in war profiteering.
"The President's strategy in Iraq has not worked," continued Rep. Baca. "This responsible bill requires the President to begin redeployment of our forces from Iraq, while also forcing the Iraqi government to start taking responsibility by paying its fair share for the continued reconstruction of its country."
In addition, the spending bill passed by the House today extends unemployment benefits for those hit hardest by the economic downturn, and includes $500 million in additional funding for emergency global food aid. For four consecutive months, the U.S. economy has lost jobs. In these difficult economic times, extending unemployment benefits is a cost-effective and fast-acting way to stimulate the economy. Every $1 spent in unemployment benefits generates $1.73 in new economic demand.
"Our economy is slowing because of the Iraq-recession. At the same time prices on everything from food and gas to education and healthcare are on the rise," concluded Rep. Baca. "People need to know that despite this President's misplaced priorities, Congress will not stand idly by as Americans are suffering. The unemployment insurance 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."