For the first time, I really got engaged in politics. I'm not meaning getting involved with the primary/caucus process and going to the state convention. I mean engaged and fighting for something that is happening right now.
Over the past couple of months, Congress has been trying to pass legislation to expand the GI Bill and provide vets with more funds to pay for school. The original GI Bill was enacted to pay for school, but the benefits have really weakened due to the increased costs of college tuition. So I really supported enhancing the GI Bill so that it does pay for tuition, since that is way it was originally created anyway.
So what did I do?
I wrote a letter to my Congressman, asking for his support.
Here's what I wrote...
Hi Rep. Kline,
I'm writing to urge you to support the bill before Congress that would strengthen the GI Bill benefits to our Veterans.
The GI Bill allowed many Veterans to complete a college education in the past, but it simply doesn't realistically cover today's rapidly growing college costs. I know you've been a supporter of the war in Iraq from the very beginning, and therefore, I think it is imperative that you support those very soldiers who proudly served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan by giving them the proper means to get a college education.
My husband served a tour of duty in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. Now that his time with the Army has ended, we have been struggling for the past three years while he has used the GI Bill to go to college. Granted the GI Bill helps with the costs of school, but it does not sufficiently cover the costs of completing an undergraduate degree. We both work full-time, and even with the GI Bill, we have had to take out student loans while my husband goes to Normandale Community College, because it is the most affordable school in our area. In the fall, he'll continue at Mankato where he'll graduate with a bachelor's degree in Business, again because it is the most affordable option for a four-year degree. I really think it's a sad state of affairs when the GI Bill fails to adequately provide for today's Veterans trying to get a college education at public universities.
Please support the GI Bill that is before Congress. Thanks so much for listening to your constituents.
Jenny and Dave Balow
What did he do? He voted against the legislation.
It didn't surprise me, because other republicans (Bush and McCain) at the time were against the version being voted on. But there was one thing that surprised though. Someone from his office called me personally to discuss his position on expanding the GI Bill. I was told that he was in support of expanding the benefits, but would only vote for it if it went through as clean (meaning that there couldn't be any other legislation snuck into the bill...it could only be for the GI Bill)....that sounds reasonable, but really, when is there bills considered in Congress that are 100% clean? There is always something else attached.
Ok. So then what did I do next?
I sent a letter to the editor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which was published on May 27.
Here's what I wrote:
GI Bill deserved more support from Kline
Rep. John Kline, who supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has failed to support the very soldiers who fight in these conflicts by voting against the expansion of the GI Bill. The GI Bill, which was enacted to provide veterans with the opportunity to go to college, is outdated and does not provide adequate funds for our veterans in Minnesota to go to our public universities. The updated GI Bill would increase funding and provide veterans with 100 percent of their tuition to a public university. It's time Kline joined the other members of the House of Representatives, who overwhelmingly approved the bill, and support our troops.
That was pretty much it until I was looking at the news yesterday and say that President Bush signed a bill into law that expanded GI Bill benefits. So I looked into it a little more, and in fact, yes, the GI Bill benefits have been expanded!
And I looked up Kline's voting record again. The second time around, he voted yes. Ironically enough, the bill was not clean...this time that GI Bill was the smaller item snuck into a larger item (that item being the $162 billion funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year and there were also some other items in the bill too.) So while I feel I had a small little victory in playing my part to get the GI Bill expanded, I can't be completely happy b/c it's at the cost of the war being funded for another year -- even though I knew it'd be continuing on anyway.
Granted, I am 99.999999% certain that he voted yes for this legislation because of the war funding, and not because of the GI Bill expansion. But still, I am pleased that the GI Bill benefits have been expanded. And the second time around, he did vote yes.
All in all, it was an interesting experience...to get a call from my Congressman's office, to have a letter of mine published in the Strib, and to get the end result of having the GI Bill expanded.