WASHINGTON (AP) — Fellow Republicans have stopped GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham from using an annual foreign aid funding bill to block work on a U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

Graham, R-S.C., has made his defense and foreign policy credentials a pillar of his longshot campaign in a crowded GOP field and had said last December that he would use any means to stop the Obama administration from opening an embassy in Havana.

But the South Carolina Republican on Tuesday failed to amend a $49 billion foreign aid measure to stop the project.

Graham chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, but he said he didn't have enough support among the panel's Republicans to endorse a House provision to block the construction unless the Castro government takes concrete steps to foster democracy.

"I don't know if the votes are there on our side, quite frankly," Graham said.

It would have taken only one or two Republicans on the narrowly divided Appropriations panel to side with Democrats to stymie any attempt by Graham to try to stop embassy construction. Graham said it remains a topic for any House-Senate negotiations on a final bill.

"The House has good language which I support, so this thing is not over yet," Graham said.

The U.S. government has modest offices in Cuba. Obama has requested $6 million to improve them. Given that so little money is needed, Obama may be able to redirect existing funds and not need congressional approval.

The two countries announced last December that they would move toward normal relations. The U.S. has lifted some travel curbs on Americans and began permitting U.S. companies to export telephones and computers to Cuba and has removed Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Last Wednesday the Cuban and U.S. governments announced they would reopen embassies in Washington and Havana.

While most Republicans support a hard line against Cuba, libertarian-minded members of the party have shown more flexibility. And farm-state Republicans are eager to export more agricultural products to the island.