Graham Threatens to Block Defense Bill Over Iran Sanctions Vote

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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With Congress running out of time, Graham threatens to halt the NDAA unless more sanctions are placed on Iran. By Stacy Kaper

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.

(Related: Iranian Foreign Minister Says That More Sanctions Would Kill Nuke Deal)

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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