New York Rep. Peter King denounced fellow Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday for sending an open letter to Iran undermining President Barack Obama’s power during his nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic.
Led by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, 47 Republican senators signed the letter warning Iran’s leaders that if they make a deal with the Obama administration without congressional approval, the next president or Congress could overturn it, the Huffington Post reported.
But King told reporters in Washington at the International Association of Fire Fighters presidential forum that he probably would not have signed the message if he were a member of the Senate, although the congressman said that he supported "the entire tone of the letter."
"I believe in a strong presidency," said King, who has often criticized Obama’s foreign policies. "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."
King, former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the letter sets a terrible "precedent" by undercutting the president of the United States while he or she is negotiating with another country, according to the Post, which described King as "hawkish."
The U.S., along with five other world powers, are in controversial talks with Iran to curtail their nuclear program to prevent the Mideast nation from building weapons of mass destruction in exchange for the reduction of tough economic sanctions.
On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" program, Cotton denied accusations in New York’s Daily News that the group of 47 senators was the equivalent of traitors.
"We’re making sure that Iran’s leaders understand if Congress doesn’t approve a deal, Congress won’t accept a deal, because we’re committing to stopping Iran from getting a weapon," said Cotton.
The News’ front page contained images of Cotton and other Senate Republicans with the headline "Traitors," while The Wall Street Journal's conservative-leaning editorial page labeled the letter a "distraction."
The letter has evoked a sharp rebuke from Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other top Democrats.
"It's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran," Obama said, while referring to powerful Iranians who also oppose a nuclear deal. "It's an unusual coalition."
And in a statement, Biden said, "This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments —
a message that is as false as it is dangerous."
During his speech to the firefighters’ association, King also blasted fellow Republicans who supported linking Department of Homeland Security funding to an attempt to repeal Obama’s executive orders on immigration, according to Politico.
"I find it really hypocritical to have people come before you, say, ‘I stand with the firefighters’… and then they don’t vote to fund Homeland Security," said King, a potential presidential candidate who is a longtime ally of firefighters’ and police unions.
"What do they think they’re going to do? You guys can win without the equipment? Without the training? Without the funding? We’re asking you to perform a federal obligation when you’re defending this country against terrorism.
"And if that’s the case, no member of the House, no member of the Senate should ever, ever deny you the funding for you to do your job."
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