It takes a lot to say that Senate conservatives have just made their most craven move in many years, but that's exactly what is happening.
In an effort to force a vote on increasing sanctions on Iran, the Senate Minority is trying to attach the measure to an otherwise non-controversial bill that would help veterans, immensely. And, they're willing to kill the veterans legislation, unless they get their way on making Iran sanctions a part of it.
Many are asking why. Is because of lobbyists? Is it just to muck up the works to keep President Obama from signing a veterans bill? The president did say he would veto increased sanctions on Iran, while nuclear negotiations are ongoing.
No, the answer is simple: campaign ads. The Senate Republican caucus is willing to throw veterans under the bus, just so they can run campaign ads.
This is the situation. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced an excellent bill to help veterans, which is backed by every major veterans group in the nation, including VoteVets.org, which I represent. Among the bill's many benefits, it would improve access to health and dental care for veterans, allowing the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities, expand educational opportunities, reauthorize previous provisions under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, including job training for veterans, and restore cost of living adjustments to military pensions. The bill previous cleared a procedural vote by 99-0. That's how non-controversial it is.
And now, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is offering a substitute bill, which includes increased sanctions on Iran, which is highly controversial. I could write a whole piece on why increasing sanctions, at this time, is a bad idea.
But, in short, as Iran's new president has shown a willingness to get rid of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the world is ready to reduce -- not eliminate -- economic sanctions on Iran to keep them talking, reinstituting sanctions has the potential to derail the whole thing, and cause Iran to withdraw from talks. That's why President Obama opposes it, and even why AIPAC opposes it. Simply put, increasing sanctions now is a path towards war.
Putting a bill with increased Iran sanctions on President Obama's desk would force him to veto major veterans legislation. That's why, if forced to vote, many Democrats who actually support increased sanctions on Iran would vote against the Burr bill. And therein lies the real reason for this.
If Republicans can get vulnerable Democrats to vote against veterans legislation and sanctions against Iran in just one vote, they'll have a pretty damaging 30-second ad to run against those Senators. How can any senator combat a slew of ads that say they voted against veterans, in order to help ease economic pressure on Iran? An ad like that could make the difference in their election.
It's disgusting, and veterans organizations are having none of this. Now, the question is whether the media will expose this tactic for what it is, and not treat it like a legitimate debate. If they do, and let Americans know how veterans are about to be screwed over for pure electoral politics, I have no doubt that the American people will rise up with us to say, "Enough!"