Protecting our nation’s veterans is one of the highest priorities for our government. The men and women who selflessly risk their lives to protect our nation deserve our respect and support. An important part of this goal is the U.S. government’s ability to provide financial assistance for higher education that is both fair to the public and does not detract from the military’s ultimate mission. This has proven more difficult than it seems for members of Congress this past week.

Sen. Jim Webb introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act. The bill aims to expand benefits to veterans serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the GI bill, the act subsidizes higher education costs. One of the most notable co-sponsors of the bill is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama. However, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has spoken out against the bill, and even introduced a competing proposal despite anger from many veterans groups.

The two bills have some stark differences worthy of noting, but have been construed by the liberal media as pro- or anti-veteran. One of the clearest differences between the two propositions is the different amount each one provides to veterans. McCain’s plan provides tuition assistance equaling the national average cost for higher education, while Webb’s bill offers much more. Webb’s plan pays for this substantial increase by raising taxes on Americans whose annual income is over $500,000, while McCain’s plan offers no new taxes. John McCain’s plan is more rational, providing a realistic amount of money for our government to pay without having to unfairly tax a certain bracket of American citizens. Those who are wealthier should not have to bear the brunt of this expensive plan. McCain has a clear commitment to bringing a balanced budget to the government, while the liberal solution is to tax.

While veteran groups attack McCain for not supporting Webb’s legislation, the Arizona senator was himself a member of the military during Vietnam. If anyone is aware of veterans’ needs, it’s him. Sen. Barack Obama has never served in the military, has far less experience dealing with veteran legislation and is in no position to criticize the former P.O.W. as he did this past week. Obama blindly supports the legislation without looking at the big picture or giving any regard to our government’s financial future.

McCain’s primary reason for opposing Webb’s legislation, however, is the effect it will have on current members of the military. As it stands now, the bill would offer financial assistance for those serving in the military for as little as three months. This provides a disincentive for Americans to extend their service commitment. Soldiers might leave the military sooner, having a huge effect on troop cohesion and structure overseas. Unity and cooperation are hugely important for success and depend on a strong bond forged between soldiers. Given the difficult time we are already having in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the wrong direction to take our military.

McCain’s plan extends the amount of time soldiers would need to serve in order to qualify for certain benefits, and it supplements this by offering an option to transfer unused benefits to family members for their educational goals after six years of service. Soldiers and their families would be able to receive the benefits they are entitled to, even if they don’t use them right away. In addition, it removes the incentive for soldiers to leave the military early by rewarding those who make longer commitments to protect our nation.

This congressional battle is indicative of the kind of leadership we will see from both presidential candidates. McCain offers methodical, thought-out solutions to our nation’s problems. Rather than blindly supporting proposals from those aiming for reelection, McCain isn’t afraid to go against powerful lobbying groups in favor of a solution that benefits our nation equally. Obama lacks the experience to know how to best reward our soldiers in a way that pleases Americans and easily succumbs to the will of these wealthy lobbies. Americans respond strongly to taxes, something McCain is well aware of. Voters will remember who protected their interests on Election Day, Mr. Obama.