The Senate GOP’s Extraordinary Letter To Iran Is Seriously Backfiring

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., outlines his bipartisan bill requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama reaches with Iran, at th... Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., outlines his bipartisan bill requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama reaches with Iran, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. He is joined at rear, from left, by, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The senators had just heard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's concerns about Iran's nuclear program during a controversial address to Congress that was criticized by President Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) MORE LESS
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WASHINGTON — A letter to Iran from Senate Republicans aimed at undermining the Obama administration’s attempt to strike a diplomatic agreement to halt the country’s nuclear program appears to be backfiring.

Led by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), 47 Republicans used the letter to inform Iran’s leaders that such an agreement would be “nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.” They said the “next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Conspicuously absent among signatories to the letter is Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who says he’s working to build a veto-proof majority for his legislation restricting President Barack Obama’s negotiating options with Iran and ensuring congressional approval before any deal is struck. He hinted that the Cotton letter wouldn’t help advance the cause.

“I knew it was going to be only Republicans on [the letter]. I just don’t view that as where I need to be today,” Corker told Politico. “My goal is to get 67 or more people on something that will affect the outcome.”

Corker needs 13 Democrats to reach a veto-proof 67 votes, and the letter hasn’t earned him any favors. Senate Democrats are rallying to Obama’s side and attacking the Republicans for what they describe as an extraordinary act of openly undercutting a president during sensitive foreign policy negotiations.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a Democratic cosponsor of Corker’s bill, said the letter “goes a step too far.”

“When we see a major party, on a partisan basis, try to undercut and kill the negotiations while they are going on at this very moment in Geneva, then that goes a step too far. I am saddened,” he said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Obama accused the Republicans of “wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.” Vice President Joe Biden, for his part, issued a lengthy, blistering statement on Monday night saying the gambit was “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere” as it was “expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the floor Monday, “This is a hard slap in the face of not only the United States and the world. This is not a time to undermine our commander-in-chief purely out of spite.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wasn’t moved by the letter, reportedly declaring that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.” He lashed back at Cotton and his allies, pointing out technical errors in their description of how the U.S. Constitution works.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leadership has been silent amidst the criticism. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who along with his leadership team signed the letter, did not mention it in his floor remarks on Tuesday morning.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wouldn’t comment on the letter, calling it “a Senate issue.”

The letter is drawing media criticism, too. The New York Daily News splashed the word “TRAITORS” under photos of Cotton, McConnell and presidential hopefuls Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who signed the letter.

The gambit is earning attention well outside traditional foreign policy circles. As of Tuesday morning, the hashtag #47Traitors was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States.

Cotton is unfazed by the criticism. He stood by his letter in appearances Monday on CNN and Tuesday on MSNBC, saying that he wants Iran to dismantle its nuclear program “forever” — not for the 10 or 15 years that reportedly make up the duration of the deal that the Obama administration is closing in on.

“The point we’re making to Iran’s leaders, who, if you talk to many of the Iran experts, will say don’t understand our Constitution, is that if Congress doesn’t approve a deal, Congress won’t accept a deal,” Cotton said on MSNBC. “Now or in the future.”

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for dnl dnl says:

    Cotton is a KochDroid

    The ManKochian Candidate

    Unadulterated by Ethics

    Would rather climb a tree to tell a lie
    Than stand on the ground to tell the truth.

  2. Define backfiring. If you understand the modern GOP as a wrecking crew, a demon vehicle out of a Stephen King novel - Christine, I believe - with an intent to murder and destroy everything in its path, except to transfer wealth upward, then no. This stunt fits right into their wheelhouse. And there will be no blowback from voters, if they are up for reelection in a midterm anyway.

  3. The Iranians dont understand the Constitution…thats why they had to correct the Cotton Cronies on their mistakes. They are traitors, undermining the Commander in Chief. I wonder what would have happened if Cotton head disobeyed orders in the field…he’d be put in the brig, thats what

  4. Avatar for enon enon says:

    check back by the end of the day… that ohso librul outlet msnbc is already spouting ‘democrats did it too’ talking points provided by the gop. i’ve not heard one reference to conservative professor jack goldsmith’s determination that this letter was way out of bounds – and wrong on the role the senate plays. wonder why.

    just like what happened with vaccinations, when the overwhelming majority of the country supported them, after treatment by the magpies, that support had actually dropped.

  5. I’m rather surprised that McConnell signed this thing. He’s a self serving evil bastard for sure but he’s far from stupid. Has to be the dumbest thing he’s ever done in his senate career. I can hardly imagine a man who has been in the Senate since Cotton was in diapers would sign onto to such a fool hardy letter. I swear I think the man has dementia coming on.

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