Sen. Cotton, 46 GOP Senators Send Open Letter to Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) has written an open letter, signed by 46 fellow Republican Senators, to the leaders of Iran, warning that any deal reached would be null and void once President Obama left office, unless approved by Congress.

The following is the full text of the letter:

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that 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 the 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.”

Democrats called the letter a political stunt.

“This letter is a hard slap in the face of not only the United States but our allies,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said. “This is not a time to undermine the commander in chief purely out of spite.”

But Sen. Cotton stood by the letter, saying it was important to send Iran’s leaders a message about what he says would be allowed or prohibited under the U.S. Constitution. 

“They need to understand that under our Constitution, Congress plays a very important role of approving international agreements,” he said. 

When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper what kind of arrangement he would support, Cotton echoed the remarks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his U.S. visit earlier this month:

“I support a good deal that stops Iran from getting a nuclear weapon today, tomorrow, ten years from now and forever,” he said. “The president has already said that a deal could have as little as a ten year sunset on it. His national security adviser has said that Iran could have uranium enrichment capabilities, the critical component of developing a nuclear bomb. Whatever else the terms of the future deal might be, those terms make the deal unacceptable to the United States and to the world because they pave the way for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.”

Still, the White House slammed the Republicans’ open letter, saying they sought to undermine the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy and advance U.S. interests worldwide.

“We have heard Republicans now, for quite some time, including the principal author of this letter, make clear that their goal is to undermine these negotiations,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. 

And President Barack Obama compared the move to efforts by Iranian hardliners to sabotage any attempts to reach compromise.

“I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran,” Obama said. “It’s an unusual coalition.”

Sens. Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins and Bob Corker are the only GOP senators who didn’t sign the letter.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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