Republicans lawmakers are coming forward to express their doubts about whether the GOP letter to Iran during delicate nuclear negotiations was the best strategy, The Daily Beast reported
Led by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, 47 of the 54 Republicans senators signed the controversial letter warning Iranian leaders that President Barack Obama's plan to reach an accord with the Islamic Republic could be reversed by the next president.
New York GOP Rep. Peter King has already slammed the letter, saying it undermined the power of the presidency. And now three of the seven GOP senators who declined to sign the message have revealed why they think the letter was a mistake.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said he thought the letter failed to address the point that Congress should be able to review any nuclear agreement the Obama administration makes with the Mideast country to end tough economic sanctions in exchange for a promise not to build weapons of mass destruction.
"I didn't think it was going to further our efforts to get to a place where Congress would play the appropriate role that it should on Iran," the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The Daily Beast.
"I did not think that 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."
Corker said that the letter had already been circulating among Republican senators early in March when Cotton raised the issue at a Senate GOP luncheon.
"I immediately knew that it was not something that, for me anyway, in my particular role, was going to be constructive," Corker said. "I didn't realize until this weekend that it had the kind of momentum that it had."
Along with New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, Corker has sponsored a bill that would require Congress to review a proposed deal with Iran before it could be approved.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who also refused to sign the letter, told reporters that the Iranian nuclear threat was "too important to divide us among partisan lines."
He continued: "I just didn't feel that it was appropriate or productive at this point. These are tough enough negotiations as it stands, and introducing this kind of letter, I didn't think would be helpful."
The other Republican senators who did not sign it were Susan Collins (Maine), Dan Coats (Ind.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Thad Cochran (Miss.)
Collins told reporters
on Tuesday: "It did not seem to me to be appropriate for us to be writing the Ayatollah at this critical time during the negotiations, and frankly, I doubt very much that the Ayatollah would be moved by an explanation of our constitutional system."
Although Rep. King said he supported "the entire tone of the letter," the former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said it could set a terrible "precedent"
by undercutting the authority of the President of the United States.
"I believe in a strong presidency," said King. "I don't know if I would have signed the letter. I don't trust the president on this, quite frankly, though I don't know if I'd go public with it to a foreign government."
Republicans have also been voicing their concerns behind the scenes about the letter, which has drawn stern criticism from Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, according to the Beast.
One aide suggested that Democrats were using the letter to attempt to turn the tables on Republicans by deflecting the argument away from the Iran negotiations and instead focusing on the parties' political differences.
"Before the letter, the national conversation was about (Israeli leader) Netanyahu's speech and how Obama's negotiations with Iran are leading to a terrible deal that could ultimately harm U.S. national security," said a Senate Republican aide whose boss signed the letter.
"Now the Obama administration and its Capitol Hill partisans are cynically trying to push the conversation away from policy, and towards a deeply political pie fight over presidential and congressional prerogatives."
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