The bill passed by a massive, veto-proof majority - including a majority of Republican voters - and was strongly supported by Senator Obama. John McCain was "conveniently" not in the Senate to vote, although he did make clear that if he had been present, he would have voted no to the bill.
Obama made the following statement about McCain's position:
I respect sen. John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this GI bill.
I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the President more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them.
John McCain comes from a military background, raised in an upper middle class family with a long tradition of service. So he ought to understand as well as anyone that men and women who chose to join military service deserve more reward from the country they have served than virtually unlimited, dangerous foreign assignments at wages too low to support their families. It is absolutely right that this country should create opportunities for those who chose to serve, as we have done in the past with the GI bill following WWII.
What's more, sending our young service members to college will have tremendous long term benefits to the country. Many people join the military out of high school because they have few other economic opportunities available to them, and no easy way to fund a college education. Our country badly needs more educated people to support the increasingly knowledge-based economy. What's more, we badly need to break the cycle of inequality that has made it harder than ever for the younger generation to surpass their parents in economic mobility. This is disgraceful in a country that defines itself by just such opportunities.
But most of all, these men and woman, who have been willing to put their lives on the line for their country, simply deserve better. John McCain has today badly let down the military that he has always claimed to support.