Reid 'Fills the Tree' to Block Iran Sanctions Amendment on Defense Bill
Also shoved aside by the Reid tree-filling is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) bill to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command, an effort co-sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Gillibrand said Reid promised her he would allow it to come to the floor as a standalone bill next year.
Other amendments that were introduced to the defense bill before Thanksgiving include Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) measure to appoint a special envoy for the purpose of promoting religious freedom among religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, another by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to increase active-duty military pay by 1.8 percent, and one by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) to exempt the POW/MIA recovery office's funding from the annual appropriations process.
Even though Reid promised to consider an Iran sanctions bill after the Thanksgiving break, the insistence of key members of his caucus to keep the pressure on the Islamic Republic has made the White House increasingly nervous.
On Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said "our view has been that Congress ought to wait until it is necessary, if it is necessary, to impose new sanctions, to pass new sanctions for a time when Iran either fails to meet its obligations on the preliminary agreement or fails to reach agreement with the P5-plus-1 on a comprehensive solution, our comprehensive agreement."
"And if Congress were to do that it would have the kind of effect that sanctions are meant to, and rather than if they were to impose or pass new sanctions now, which could undermine our unity internationally with the P5-plus-1 and cause problems and potentially scuttle the initial preliminary agreement," Carney added.
Negotiations were in the works last week to add sanctions language from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to the defense bill, but they fell apart mysteriously and suddenly as Reid filled the tree.
Given past sanctions votes and disappointment voiced by many Democrats over the Iran nuclear deal inked in Geneva, the administration faced a high possibility of a vote in favor of new sanctions.
"I've had my disagreement with the administration here," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC on Monday. "Look, sanctions brought the Iranians to the table. It's the same government. Rouhani is one guy but the supreme -- so-called supreme leader is running the show. They're a terrorist country. They're a country that doesn't believe in anything that we believe in. But sanctions brought them to the table."
"Good thing. We should talk," Schumer continued. "But the idea which the administration did in the initial agreement of reducing sanctions before they reduced their nuclear capability was a mistake. And I think there are many of us Democrats and Republicans working together."
Sen. Tom Coburn indicated Tuesday that he might block the defense bill with a filibuster.
“How many years has it been since we’ve had an NDAA with no amendments? It’s never happened. Here’s half of our discretionary spending, authorization for it, why would we shut off the right to have amendments?” Coburn said, according to Roll Call. “I’m not about to give up my right to offer amendments because somebody wants to get a bill through that hasn’t been fully vetted.”
After a closed policy luncheon today, Reid tried to convince reporters that his tree-filling was in the best interests of the upper chamber.
"I hope what we do is get back to doing legislation bill by bill. That's what we've done in the past. We haven't done it in the last few years because there's been too much obstruction," Reid said. "Otherwise, what's coming to us, as the Republicans continue this, we're just shoveling to the executive branch of government more power."