UPDATE – Senators Inhofe and Hagan were able to push their amendment through today on a voice vote. Now the Continuing Resolution and amendments are headed to the House for a vote. The House is now set to vote on the CR as it is written.
The amendment to the Senate’s Continuing Resolution offered by Senators Kay Hagan and Jim Inhofe would stop the termination of military Tuition Assistance. It originally fell short earlier this week. But against the odds it was passed Wednesday afternoon.
The amendment is part of a growing bipartisan response to the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corps suspension of the Tuition Assistance program, which was brought on by the so-called sequestration. The military tuition assistance program was created to help servicemembers reach their academic goals and prepare for their inevitable transition back to the civilian workforce. Military members took 870,000 courses and earned 50,500 degrees diplomas, and certificates in 2012.
Last week military leaders warned that suspending TA would result in low morale and difficulty recruiting and retaining quality servicemembers. (read the full article on Military.com)
According to Senator Hagan’s press release, “Prominent national groups including the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Legion, Marine Corps League, American Military Retirees Association, AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Non Commissioned Officer Association (NCOA), and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) have endorsed the amendment. Other endorsements include local community colleges and families personally affected by the discontinuation of these funds.
In addition to the amendment to the Senate CR, several in Congress are raising questions about how the U.S. can continue paying foreign aid to Egypt and Pakistan (specifically education aid) when we are cutting important programs like TA for troops. In response, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced HR 1039 which would block aid to Egypt and appropriate funding to restore TA.
Like the Hagan- Inhofe amendment, HR 1039 is not likely to pass. Rick Maze, staff writer for the Military Times network, reported that Congress is reluctant to protect a single program as it could “spark efforts by other lawmakers to protect hundreds of other programs hurt by the cuts.” He added that according to congressional aides, “the measure will get no serious consideration until Congress takes up the 2014 federal spending bills.”
Congress is not the only source of pressure on the DoD to save TA; the White House is also being pressed by the public through a petition to save the tuition assistance on its “We the People” web site. Yesterday the petition reached the 100,000 signature threshold, which requires the WH to make a public comment on the suspension of TA.
Stay tuned for further updates…