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Hold Lifted on Veterans COLA Bill Vote

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The "secret hold" put on a bill intended to provide a cost-of-living increase to nearly 4 million veterans and their survivors was removed Thursday and the legislation will be voted on when the Senate convenes, said a member of the Senate Minority Leader's staff.

"The bill was being reviewed in the waning hours before the Senate finished its work [on Saturday]. Unfortunately, the Senate adjourned before the clearance process was finished," said Michael Brumas, Sen. Mitch McConnell's spokesman. "But I understand the bill is now cleared for Senate action by both sides."

Earlier today, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released a statement saying the COLA bill was being sidelined by a so-called "secret hold," a rule that Senators may use to stall or kill legislation.

Previous attempts to end secret holds have failed. A move to thwart them by requiring the blocking senator to identify himself within two days is easily bypassed by what's called "tag-teaming."

In these instances, one senator takes over a hold from another every two days, effectively avoiding having to identify himself. The rules, however, do require the leadership of the blocking senator's party to be aware of and approve of the hold.

McConnell's office did not identify the senator or senators who put the hold on the bill.

Murray introduced the COLA bill to the Senate floor on Sept. 20 and it subsequently was cleared by all Senate Democrats.

Murray called the hold on the COLA bill "stunning," in particular because she had no idea why anyone would oppose the cost-of-living adjustment.

"I don't know of any secret holds," Brumas said. "This was a late request and by the time the Senate adjourned not all 100 senators had had a chance to sign off on it. But as I said, it's now been cleared by both sides for action."

The COLA legislation would increase disability compensation for veterans and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.

The adjustment rate, which would match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients, is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

COLA bills are generally non-controversial, Murray said, calling the increases "hard earned and well deserved."

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