47 GOP Senators signed an open letter to Iran’s leaders, warning them that Republicans were prepared to undermine any nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the United States. The letter was the brainchild of freshman Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also signed the letter. The letter basically argues that Iran should not trust any agreement with the United States because that deal could be undone at any time.
…we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of an agreement at any time.
We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.
Incidentally, the Republican Senators who drafted the letter could afford to brush up on their knowledge of our constitutional system, since the letter states that ”the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” Actually, as the U.S. Senate website clearly spells out, “the Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification”.
The GOP’s shaky grasp of the Senate’s advise and consent role is concerning enough, but the larger issue is the rather blatant effort to undermine the President’s negotiations with Iran. What the Republican Senators are doing would be analogous to Democrats in 1982 sending an open letter to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to undermine the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) between President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet head of state.
One can only imagine the outrage if then Freshman Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) had drafted such a letter in 1982. That outrage would have been compounded if 40 plus Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Robert Byrd (WV) and prominent Senators like Ted Kennedy (MA) and Alan Cranston (CA), had signed onto the letter. If they told Gorbachev that any deal he reached with Ronald Reagan could be overturned by the next President or by members of the Senate, conservatives would have called for their expulsion from office. They may even have accused them of committing treason.
The difference is that even as Democrats expressed their opposition to much of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy, they put country ahead of partisanship when it came to working out a nuclear weapons reduction agreement with the Soviet Union. Therefore, they let Reagan proceed to negotiate with the Soviets, without feeling the need to put up petty partisan roadblocks to the diplomatic process.
In 2015, the opposition party is more interested in scoring political points than in practicing international diplomacy. Only seven Republican Senators put country ahead of party by not signing the letter. Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Thad Cochran (MS), Dan Coats (IN), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Bob Corker (TN) did not sign the letter. The other 47 Republican Senators did.
Those 47 Senators are so intent on undermining the current President that they would rather see him fail than allow the White House to secure an agreement with Iran. Presidential contenders Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio may win the allegiance of anti-Obama voters with this maneuver, but they have also shown by meddling in the diplomatic process, that they are more interested in political posturing, than they are in working for the future safety and security of the American people.
Author’s Correction: The original article incorrectly said Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) did not sign the letter. He did. It also failed to list Thad Cochran (R-MS) as a Senator who did not sign the letter. He did not.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.