Two top Democrats were apparently enraged by Senate Republicans’ new letter to Iran.
In a message addressed to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and sent on Monday, 46 GOP senators gave Tehran a warning about ongoing nuclear negotiations. The senators pointed out the Constitution places limits on President Barack Obama’s ability to strike an agreement without the consent of the Senate.
Later in the day on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) condemned the Republican missive as an “unprecedented” attempt to undermine Obama’s authority abroad.
“I can’t think of a precedent where you’ve had one political party in the United States try to intervene in international negotiations,” Durbin said.
“Even at the height of our disagreement with President George W. Bush, Senate Democrats [never] considered sending a letter to Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders at the time. It would have been an embarrassment,” Reid said, according to a transcript provided by his office. “So I say to my Republican colleagues: Do you so dislike President Obama that you would take this extraordinary step?”
The US and other powers are nearing the March 24 deadline for nuclear negotiations with Iran. The US wants Tehran to halt its ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for the US rolling back economic stations. But since it appears the US will construct the agreement in such a way that it avoids the Treaty Clause of the Constitution, which requires Senate advice and approval of treaties, the deal could end up being temporary.
Accordingly, the Republican senators said the agreement could be easily voided by Obama’s successor in 2017.
“[W]e will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as noting more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” they wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Bloomberg. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with a stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
But Reid argued the Republican opposition to Obama’s negotiations was due to personal resentment — not any special adherence to the Constitution.
“In this Congress, for 33 years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” the veteran lawmaker said. “The dislike of the president is so intense by Republican leaders that this is what they’re doing. They cannot accept the fact that this good man, Barack Obama, this man with the unusual name, was elected twice by overwhelming margins by the people of this country.”
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