- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that his Democratic counterpart is barring any GOP changes to pending defense legislation because he “can’t stomach a vote on Iran sanctions.”

In a blistering speech on the Senate floor, McConnell railed against Democratic leader Harry Reid for changing Senate rules to limit the GOP’s ability to filibuster and complained that Reid was jamming a comprehensive, $632.8 billion bill through the Senate without allowing any amendments.

Reid insists that he has no other choice to counter GOP delaying tactics on nominations and legislation, including the defense policy bill which attracted some 500 amendments before Thanksgiving.

McConnell, who spoke favorably about the defense bill, said Reid’s motivation in preventing any amendments was to avoid a vote on Iran sanctions. The Obama administration has pleaded with Congress to hold off on a new round of tough penalties, fearing that it will undermine last month’s nuclear deal with Tehran.

McConnell said the Nevada Democrat realizes “the administration would lose that vote decisively, and he knows that many members of his own caucus would vote alongside Republicans to strengthen those sanctions.”

McConnell, R-Ky., called Reid’s tactics a “short-term power grab” that could come back to haunt the Democrats if they find themselves in the minority.

The Senate is expected to vote by week’s end to approve the overall bill that would authorize $552.2 billion for the regular budget plus $80.7 billion for conflicts overseas in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. It represents a compromise worked out by the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Armed Services committees after a similar bill stalled in the Senate just before Thanksgiving.

A test vote to move ahead on the bill is slated for Wednesday.

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