WASHINGTON -- Two top veterans groups have come out against a Senate GOP effort to insert an Iran sanctions amendment into an unrelated veterans bill, putting the party at odds with a constituency that leans Republican.
"Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war," said American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger in a Wednesday statement, referring to the veterans benefits measure introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "We can deal with Iran -- or any other issue unrelated specifically to veterans -- with separate legislation."
Though officially nonpartisan, the American Legion is known for having more-conservative, older members. NPR reported that legion members hearing from Mitt Romney in 2012 were "not an Obama-friendly crowd."
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America offered a similar sentiment against linking Iran sanctions on Tuesday:
The Senate should not get distracted while debating & voting on the #vets bill. Iran sanctions, Obamacare, etc. aren’t relevant to S. 1982.
— IAVA (@iava) February 25, 2014
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are leading the GOP push for new Iran sanctions. On Tuesday, Burr said that he wanted to put Iran sanctions language into a Republican amendment to the Sanders bill.
"It's important to Republicans and Democrats to have a vote on the Iran sanctions initiative," Burr said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he pointed out another reason to add Iran sanctions to the veterans measure. "It happens to be a vehicle that might leave the United States Senate, and therefore it is an appropriate vehicle," he said.
Representatives for Burr and McConnell did not immediately return requests for comment about the veterans groups' opposition.
But Sanders also opposes adding Iran sanctions to his legislation.
"What does Iran sanctions have to do with the veterans bill? And it has nothing to do with the veterans law. That's the simple truth," he said on CNN Wednesday.