I recently read the series of newspaper articles regarding several new polls by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. One of the numbers that stood out for me was that only 11 percent of Montanans approve of the job Congress is doing. Montanans are tired of political games. They want Washington to change the way it does things, and so do I. So, I recently decided to take a stand.
In late April, I cosponsored a new monumental G.I. Bill that would expand educational benefits for post-9/11 service members to a level which hadn’t been seen since World War II. One of the best ways we can provide for our troops after their service is by giving them quality educational benefits so they can go back to school, expand their education and go into the career of their choice. Nearly 300 of my House colleagues also signed on in support of this legislation, a sign that these benefits were well on their way to our troops.
Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi and company had a different plan, a plan that puts politics first. So, they took an annual troop funding measure, which received next to no debate, and attached it to deadlines for troop withdrawal and a $51.6 billion tax increase on Montana’s small business owners. To me, legislation to fund our troops is a no-brainer. I wholeheartedly support funding our troops and my record proves it. However, I can’t support legislation that ties the hands of our commanders on the ground and threatens Montanans, already faced with a struggling economy, with more taxes.
So it’s no surprise that when Pelosi’s G.I. Bill plan reached the Senate, it died. Senate leaders knew the tax increase were unnecessary. They knew the President would veto the House legislation the way it was. So they made the right choice. They gave our troops the resources needed to be successful, and did it with a veto-proof majority. In doing so, they also ensured the G.I. Bill’s benefits were one step closer to going to our troops. Unfortunately, by choosing to attach the G.I. Bill to big government spending, House Democrats instead chose only to delay these benefits. Benefits which should have quickly and easily been signed into law.
In Montana, the politics got even worse. Montana Democrats immediately jumped on the bandwagon, borrowed talking points from the Democrat National Committee, and gave this cheap, political chess match their stamp of approval.
I support expanding our troops’ educational benefits. I support the G.I. Bill. I wouldn’t have cosponsored it if I didn’t. And I recently voted for expanded educational benefits as part of an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. But I also want our troops to be able to go back to school without raising taxes on businesses across Montana to pay for it. I want to ease the transition to civilian life for the brave men and women who served our country without having to push through bad policy for the sake of politics. And many of the G.I. Bill’s supporters agreed with me. In fact, five of the seven Democrats who voted against the House measure were cosponsors of the G.I. Bill. Even they couldn’t stomach the cheap election-year tricks coming from their own party leaders.
Before Montanans will approve of the job Congress is doing, we’re going to have to start doing things differently. Montanans are fed up with the partisan bickering and gamesmanship in Congress. And so am I. Political games won’t cut it anymore. On the House floor, I took a stand. And I’m going to fight like heck to get the G.I. Bill the up or down vote our troops deserve.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
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