Senate Republicans are objecting to a set of votes on addressing the issue of sexual assault in the military without a vote on imposing stiffer sanctions against Iran.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered a proposal that would have set up competing votes on limiting debate on two proposals that would change the way the military handles prosecutions of alleged incidents of sexual assault in the armed forces, a floor debate that wasn't held as part of the Senate's consideration of the current fiscal year's defense policy legislation.
Those proposals are championed by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, with separate coalitions. Reid's proposal did not have a date certain for action.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., offered a counterproposal that would have added a vote, with a similar supermajority threshold, on providing for additional sanctions against Iran proposed by Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill. That's a move the Obama administration has strongly opposed, saying that even a Senate vote could undermine negotiations over that country's nuclear capability.
"The Gillibrand and McCaskill amendment that the majority leader talks about were filed as amendments to the defense authorization bill that the Senate passed in December. They each have significant bipartisan support," Moran said. "The majority leader filled the tree on that bill and blocked out amendments on both sides of the aisle, and therefore the Senate did not vote on these bills last year."
"There are hundreds of other amendments that were also blocked," Moran said, offering the addition of the contentious Kirk amendment regarding Iran to the list. Reid blocked that maneuver.
"There is no more important national security concern today than keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability," Reid said. "That's why President Obama has entered into international negotiations with Iran. The Senate has a long tradition of bipartisanship on this issue."
The urgency for the sanctions enhancements waned among supportive Democrats since originally introduced, but the move to avoid the amendment makes it difficult to foresee further action on any related issues on the Senate floor in the immediate future.