- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

Sen. Paul Wellstone yesterday put a hold on all pending Republican legislation not linked to the terrorist attacks in retaliation for a secret block put on his bill to increase funding for homeless veterans.

Mr. Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, hopes his action will smoke out the sole Republican senator blocking his bill and force him or her to lift it.

"This is driving me up the wall and I'm starting to get very indignant about it," Mr. Wellstone said in an interview after announcing the holds on the Senate floor.

"I'm going to put a hold on just about everything until I find out what is going on. I am very perplexed and I'm pretty angry about it I think it's outrageous," Mr. Wellstone said.

Mr. Wellstone's proposed legislation would increase funding from $24 million to $50 million for job training and placement for homeless veterans. It authorizes other transitional services such as addiction recovery and affordable-housing searches.

"I'm not going to let up on it; every day I'm going to keep doing it," Mr. Wellstone said of his blanket holds.

Mr. Wellstone has tried to bring up his legislation for a floor vote four times since last week. Key veteran groups sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott urging him to help remove the block on the bill.

"With American servicemen and women on guard at home and abroad, we find it difficult to believe that some senators are placing roadblocks and resorting to delaying on passage of legislation of such great benefit to seriously disabled veterans who have also served their country with distinction," said the letter. It was signed by representatives from Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Amvets.

Veterans Affairs reported 345,000 homeless veterans in 1999, a 34 percent increase from 1998.

Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, said he does not know who is blocking the bill or how Mr. Wellstone's procedural move will affect future legislative business.

"Frankly, I'm not focused on that at all. I'm still very much concerned that the confirmation process is not moving forward as it should," Mr. Lott said.

The Senate has approved only 12 federal judges this year, and Mr. Lott said they are now more focused on passing appropriation bills and emergency legislation to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"And so I'm not going to get into this little spat that's going on between Senator Wellstone and others," Mr. Lott said.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said he does not approve of the anonymous hold.

"My practice is when I put a hold on a piece of legislation or on an individual, I put a statement in the record of why I have that hold," Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Wellstone reiterated his disdain for the secret maneuver by announcing his holds on the Senate floor "with a twinkle in my eye," he said.

His bill passed unanimously out of committee, lending further confusion as to why it was being blocked under the anonymous procedure, Mr. Wellstone said.

As Congress continues to work toward adjournment, Mr. Wellstone predicts his tactic will prevail.

"The boomerang effect is that eventually they will want to move a lot of stuff and then people will want to find out who is doing it. I bet I will have a lot of allies before it is all over," Mr. Wellstone said.

Democrats speculated that this hold and others this year on bills by Mr. Wellstone, who is up for re-election next year, may be politically motivated in order to slow his legislative accomplishments.

"They are holding homeless veterans hostage to politics," said one Democratic aide. "This veterans program is one we can point to with great success."

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