“I appeal to the really life or death situation what will entail a lot of deaths if you block this legislation,” John McCain said. | AP Photo
Sen. John McCain accused fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee of putting Afghanistan interpreters’ lives at risk after the two had a parliamentary dispute on Thursday afternoon.
As the Senate raced to finish a defense policy bill, Lee (R-Utah) refused to allow the Senate to vote on an amendment that would give protections to Afghans who assisted U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Lee wanted a vote on his proposal to bar the United States from detaining an American citizen indefinitely and argued that he’s patiently waited for a chance to get a rollcall vote on the matter.
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That did not sit well with McCain (R-Ariz.).
“They’re going to die if we don’t pass this amendment and take them out of harm’s way. Don’t you you understand the gravity of that? … They have been marked for death,” McCain fumed. “They’re going to die. They’re going to be killed. Doesn’t that somehow appeal to your sense of compassion for these people?”
While senators often scrap over who gets a vote on amendments, McCain’s accusation that Lee was endangering peoples’ lives by holding up a vote marked an unusually harsh response to Lee’s tactics. But McCain was unbowed.
“I appeal to the really life-or-death situation that will entail a lot of deaths if you block this legislation,” McCain added.
Lee still rejected McCain’s request. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested that having a hearing on Lee’s legislation would make more sense than an immediate vote on whether Americans can be declared enemy combatants, but Lee was having none of it, alleging that past promises from McCain and Graham to examine the issue had gone unfulfilled.
“We’re talking about an issue that was brought about five years ago and I’m being told again and again and again to wait, to wait, to wait, to wait more,” Lee said. “This is not a frivolity. This is not just some nicety. This is not just some parochial interest. This is a basic human rights interest.”
After the tough Republican infighting, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) took to the floor to steady things, lacing into President Barack Obama’s administration for its handling of the Iran nuclear deal.