Congress Passes Wellstone Legislation to Protect National Guard

Congress has passed legislation sponsored by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., to extend wartime protections to National Guard personnel.

The legislation would amend the 1940 Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, which protects military members but not National Guard personnel called up by governors from civil actions, such as eviction, foreclosure, cancellation of life insurance and interest rates over 6 percent.

The Senate passed Wellstone's bill late Monday night as part of a larger veterans bill; the House did the same last week.

Current law applies only to National Guard personnel that are mobilized directly by the president, not by those called up by governors at the request of the president. If signed into law, the new legislation would include National Guard members activated for federal emergencies for over 30 days.

The White House did not immediately return a phone message left Tuesday.

"It was very important to Sen. Wellstone that the men and women who protect our country in the National Guard have the protections they deserve," said Wellstone spokeswoman Allison Dobson.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.

"Fortunately, Paul provided the leadership and introduced this legislation to ease the financial burdens plaguing many of those who answer the president's call to help protect our country in times of national emergency," Dayton said.

The same legislation passed the Senate last year as part of the Defense Department spending bill, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But it was stripped out during House-Senate negotiations.