A commendable effort to expand in-state tuition access for veterans sailed through both chambers in Olympia on unanimous votes. Then it stalled over the issue of who would get credit for taking up the cause of those who selflessly serve the country.
When the stalemate couldn’t be broken, legislative leaders in Olympia pushed the bill into what is supposed to be the final week – this week – of this session. House and Senate members are still calling it a must-pass piece of legislation, but neither side is showing the leadership and humility that would allow that to happen.
Here’s a summation of this juvenile dust-up:
The House is all, “The Senate should’ve just voted on our bill.”
The Senate is all, “We worked harder on the issue, so the House should vote on our bill.”
And the House is all, “We worked harder on the Dream Act, which granted in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants, but we ended up voting on your version.”
And the Senate is all, “We improved the Dream Act, which is why we renamed it the Real Hope Act.”
And the House is all, “No fair, because you guys will get the credit for helping two key constituencies: veterans and Latinos.”
And the Senate is all, “Oh yeah? Then meet us at the bike racks after first lunch, and we’ll settle this!”
Granted, that wasn’t the precise back-and-forth, but it fits the maturity level of the debate, which we find to be symptomatic of the Tired Act that drives the public crazy.
Twenty states have already expanded in-state tuition privileges for veterans, which allows them to stretch their GI Bill education dollars further without having to wait a year to qualify for residency. Twelve states are taking up bills this year to do the same, according to the Student Veterans of America website.
It’s going to be mighty embarrassing if Washington can’t declare “mission accomplished” when there is no opposition to the idea.
Here’s how we would settle the issue: The first side to relent is declared the winner, because that’s the side that put veterans first, taking credit second. It’s the only way veterans are going to get any help.
Meanwhile, in Congress, politics has pinned down an effort to secure medical, education and job-training benefits for veterans. Again, both sides agree that veterans are worthy, but they can’t find a way to work together. Neither side wants the other to gain an upper hand with the nation’s 22 million veterans and their supporters.
As a result, veterans groups are exasperated.
“Veterans don’t have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
It’s the same on issue after issue, and the cause of record-low approval ratings in Congress.
Politicians, take note: Veterans are popular because they don’t try to be. They put aside their differences and fight for a common goal.
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