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Obama signs National Guard benefits bill

The law will provide paid time off to members of the Minnesota National Guard.

WASHINGTON — President Obama has signed a bipartisan bill to extend paid leave benefits to members of the Minnesota National Guard and 49,000 other troops across the country. 

The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Kline, with a Senate version introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, received unanimous support from Congress, which passed it last week.

“The entire Minnesota congressional delegation worked together to guarantee our sons and daughters in uniform received the benefits they were promised and earned,” Kline said in a statement. “Speed counts, and I am pleased the president swiftly signed this into law.”

Kline introduced the bill after the Department of Defense changed its paid leave policy last fall while 2,000 members of the Minnesota National Guard “Red Bulls” were serving the Middle East. The policy change cut the number of paid leave days soldiers can take, but it didn’t grandfather in those who were already serving. Some Red Bull members stood to lose up to 27 days of paid leave time under the new policy.

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Kline and Klobuchar worked with the Pentagon to change the policy, and they got the backing of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said Congress would need to pass a bill before the benefits could be restored.

“This is a victory for the Minnesota Red Bulls and all servicemen and women of the National Guard and Reserve, ensuring they receive the full amount of leave benefits they were promised and earned defending our country,” Klobuchar said.

Devin Henry can be reached at