In a measure aimed specifically at convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Senate voted 98-0 Wednesday to bar burial and other veterans benefits for those found guilty of federal capital offenses.
McVeigh, said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a sponsor of the legislation, committed the “most heinous criminal act in the history of the United States of America,” and it would be “unseemly” for him to be buried in a national cemetery alongside America’s heroes.
“This is one further statement of national resolve,” said Sen. Robert Toricelli, D-N.J., a cosponsor. Not only will terrorists be pursued and captured, he said, but “we will deny you honor in death.”
The usually slow-moving Senate rushed the measure to a vote only a day after Specter and other lawmakers learned of a gap in the law that would allow McVeigh, if he so chose, to join the 2.5 million veterans buried in the nation’s 114 veterans’ cemeteries.
“In Oklahoma this created quite a furor,” said Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican. Burying McVeigh in a national cemetery “would desecrate hallowed ground.”
The Veterans Affairs Department confirmed Tuesday that McVeigh, an Army veteran who served in the Persian Gulf War, would be eligible for burial benefits, which include a grave site, perpetual care of the site, a headstone, a presidential memorial certificate and burial flags.
Current law denies burial benefits to those convicted of espionage, treason, sedition and other crimes, but not murder.