Graham Threatens to Block Defense Bill Over Iran Sanctions Vote

One of the bill’s biggest supporters is threatening to pull his support, jeopardizing a bipartisan plan to pass the measure before year’s end.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill March 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
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Stacy Kaper
Dec. 11, 2013, 9:03 a.m.

Lind­sey Gra­ham is typ­ic­ally one of the Sen­ate’s strongest sup­port­ers of the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, but he threatened Wed­nes­day to vote against the bill un­less he is as­sured a vote on Ir­an sanc­tions.

“My de­cision about the de­fense bill will be linked to wheth­er or not we get a guar­an­tee to vote on the Ir­a­ni­an sanc­tions, if we can in­tro­duce them,” the South Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day. “If you can con­vince me that there will be an­oth­er path for­ward oth­er than the de­fense bill, that will go a long way to shape my think­ing.”

Un­der an agree­ment reached between Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee lead­ers, Con­gress would fast-track the an­nu­al de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion bill, hav­ing both cham­bers vote on identic­al bills and re­fus­ing amend­ments in both cham­bers.

That’s a dif­fi­cult pro­pos­i­tion in the Sen­ate, be­cause many mem­bers would hop­ing to use the bill as a vehicle for their de­fense-re­lated agenda.

Gra­ham, who is a strong ad­voc­ate for sanc­tions and for the au­thor­iz­a­tion bill, prom­ised he’d vote against the lat­ter un­less guar­an­teed a vote on the former. “I need a guar­an­teed vehicle to get this done. I think it’s that im­port­ant to our na­tion­al se­cur­ity,” he said Wed­nes­day.

Gra­ham’s hes­it­a­tion adds an­oth­er com­plic­a­tion for the fast-track pas­sage plan, an ef­fort to get the le­gis­la­tion fin­ished be­fore the House’s sched­uled de­par­ture Fri­day.

Oth­er sen­at­ors — in­clud­ing Re­pub­lic­ans Tom Coburn and Rand Paul — are ob­ject­ing to the bar­ring of amend­ments, and Sen. Mitch Mc­Con­nell has yet to say wheth­er he’ll back the plan, in part over con­cerns about bring­ing for­ward Ir­an sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion.

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