The brewing dispute between Cornyn and Noriega over veterans issues escalated amid debate over an expanded GI Bill. Congress passed the measure, and President Bush signed it last Monday, doubling college aid for recent military members and allowing their education benefits to be transferred to a spouse or children.
Noriega chastised Cornyn for not initially supporting the bill, and Noriega's supporters delivered petitions to Cornyn's Texas offices demanding that he get behind it. Cornyn later voted for a different version of the bill. He said he wanted a version that allowed the transfer of education benefits, something he said would help with retention in the all-volunteer military.
"The saying is that you recruit a service member, you recruit a soldier, but you retain a family," Cornyn said. "It's an important recognition of their contribution as well."
Cornyn's father went to college on the original GI Bill after World War II.
Cornyn's first vote against the new bill didn't sit well with some in the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose members talked about it at their state convention last week. The organization's political committee hasn't endorsed in the Senate race yet and is weighing whether to withhold support from Cornyn because of his position on the GI Bill, said Roy Grona, adjutant quartermaster for the Texas VFW.
"This one was a big one," Grona said, cautioning that he was expressing only his own views, not those of the whole organization. He wondered why Cornyn didn't vote for the GI Bill expansion right away, then work later to get it into the final shape he wanted. "To me, it was just an excuse to put a 'no' vote on it because the president wasn't happy with it."