GOP wants Iran sanctions in veterans' bill

Senate Republicans are trying to tie more Iranian sanctions to a veterans’ bill currently being considered.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has said he will offer a GOP alternative as an amendment to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) S. 1982, which would boost veterans' healthcare programs and give veterans in-state tuition rates at all schools across the country.

Burr’s amendment includes a bill that would increase sanctions on Iran to deter the country’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

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“Part of the package that Sen. Burr has authored also deals with another problem — imposing sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program if negotiations fail,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said when announcing his support for Burr’s plan Tuesday.

Why the bill increasing sanctions against Iran has bipartisan support, Democrats have stepped back from pushing an immediate vote after President Obama asked for them to wait until after the conclusion of a six-month deal.

The administration is working with the Iranian government to try to reduce uranium enrichment. To get Iran to the table, the administration reduced some of the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Unfortunately the interim deal has undercut all of our gains,” Graham said. “Unfortunately the sanctions system we had in place is crumbling before our eyes. … It’s very clear they’ve been trying to develop a nuclear bomb for some time.”

Sanders’ said he was open to hearing GOP ideas and voting on amendments as long as they were relevant to veterans’ issues.

“Let us not politicize this issue by bringing Iran or ObamaCare into this,” Sanders said Tuesday. “Let us focus on veterans issues. … Let’s not bring in poison pills.”

Sanders’ nearly $23 billion bill would boost veterans' healthcare programs, give veterans in-state tuition rates at all schools across the country and provide advanced appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It also seeks to permanently fix a cut to the growth rate of veterans' pensions. Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill to avoid a cut in the growth rate for current service members and veterans, but anyone enlisting after 2013 would still see a cut — Sanders’ bill would eliminate that cut as well.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate voted 99-0 to end debate on the motion to consider the bill. The Senate is expected to spend the rest of the week debating the measure and possibly voting on amendments.