Top Senate Republican: GOP Letter To Iran Not ‘Constructive’

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) told reporters Tuesday that his Republican colleagues’ letter to Iran was not “constructive” to the goal of ensuring Congress plays a role in the approval of a nuclear agreement.

“I knew of the letter but it just wasn’t something — I immediately knew that it was not something that, for me anyway, in my particular role, was going to be constructive,” Corker said in the Capitol. “And I just didn’t even realize until this weekend that it had the kind of momentum that it has.”

The letter from Sen. Tom Cotton and signed by 46 other Senate Republicans, including the party’s leadership, informed Iran’s leaders that a deal to halt its nuclear program could be blocked by Congress or nixed by President Barack Obama’s successor.

“I did not think the letter was something that was going to help get us to an outcome,” Corker said. “My role as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee is to get us to an outcome. And I did not think the letter was something that was going to help get us to an outcome that we’re all seeking, and that is Congress playing that appropriate role in striking a deal with Iran negotiations.”

Corker said he wasn’t worried that the intense backlash to the letter, from the White House to Democrats to certain media outlets, would undermine his efforts to secure a veto-proof majority for legislation that requires Congress to sign off on any deal with Iran.

“The administration has pushed back on Congress having any role,” he said, pointing out that Obama has threatened to veto his bill, which has the support of numerous Democrats.

Some of those cosponsors — Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) — strongly criticized the GOP letter on Tuesday. Kaine said it raises questions as to whether the Republican-led Congress is capable of handling national security in a “mature and responsible way.”

Corker responded, “I think this Congress is plenty mature.”