By Jeremy Herb
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday accused Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of dodging a vote on tougher Iran sanctions by pushing the Defense authorization bill without additional amendments.
McConnell raised objections to a plan from Armed Services leaders to circumvent regular order and quickly pass the Pentagon policy bill finalized by the House and Senate committees.
McConnell also criticized Reid for voting on nominations this week instead of the Defense bill, arguing that the measure should be on the floor for amendments now.
McConnell’s resistance raises major roadblocks for the plans of members on the Armed Services panels to get the Defense bill done this year.
While McConnell stopped short of saying he would try to block passage of the Defense bill, the minority leader’s resistance indicated a fight was looming on the legislation.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) — as well as the Republican ranking member James Inhofe (Okla.) — argue that passing the bill without amendments is the only way it will get done.
They argue, along with their House counterparts, there isn’t time for amendments because the lower chamber has to pass the final bill before it adjourns at the end of the week.
But that argument seemed to fall flat during the Senate Republican conference luncheon on Tuesday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the most hawkish Republicans in the Senate, did not say if he would support moving forward on the Defense bill without considering amendments.
“No amendments is pretty unreasonable,” Graham told reporters.
“I’ve got colleagues who’ve got amendments on Iran, on how you’d better run the DOD, and to say they can’t have a vote just turns the Senate into the House,” he said. “So why should we even be put in that box? Why should we have to be debating whether or not to give up the ability to amend the bill and help the troops? They’re not mutually exclusive.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he wanted to move on the Defense bill but said it was still up in the air within the GOP conference.
“There are people who have objections because of majority leader of the Senate, his mismanagement of the Senate that did not allow us to bring up the Defense authorization after it came out of the committee in June,” McCain said.
“Instead, he waits until now and tries to jam it through, and amendments aren’t allowed. People are very upset about that. Senators believe they should be allowed amendments.”
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) suggested he might try to block the Defense bill, telling reporters he would do "anything I can" to stop it if he could not offer amendments.
Levin argued that, when they tried to bring up amendments before Thanksgiving to the bill, there were objections to doing so, even to amendments that had been cleared by both sides.
Now the only way to pass the bill is as it is written, he said.
“It’s not ideal, but we were given no choice,” Levin said. “For one week, we were trying to offer amendments, and even amendments that were agreed to were not allowed to be adopted by one or two objectors.”