Sen. Tom Cotton was unapologetic Wednesday for spearheading a letter signed by 47 senators to Iranian leaders this week, warning that no nuclear deal signed with the United States would last after President Barack Obama leaves office.
"No regrets at all," the freshman Arkansas Republican told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News.
"Iran has to understand that the Congress will protect the American people from a bad deal, as they have been doing for 200 years and as our Founding Fathers have envisioned."
Cotton, who served one term in the House of Representatives before his Senate election in November, led the effort to send
the "open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" on Monday.
The letter has been scorned by Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton — and many Democrats.
Even some of the 47 Republicans who signed the letter
, Arizona Sen. John McCain among them, have since expressed regret for supporting the document.
Clinton slammed the letter on Tuesday during a news conference in which she defended the use of her personal email during her four years as the nation's top diplomat.
"The recent letter from Republican senators was out of step with the best traditions of American leadership," Clinton said at the outset of her session with reporters after speaking to the United Nations.
She then wondered about the document's intent.
"There appear to be two logical answers," Clinton said. "Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander in chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy.
"Either answer does discredit to the letter's signatories," she said.
The presumed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate attacked the letter further Wednesday on Twitter:
But Cotton soon retorted:
He further attacked the former first lady, telling Van Susteren: "I'm surprised that Secretary Clinton, who was a senator, is not standing up for constitutional powers of the Congress. I'm sure when she was in the senate she felt differently.
"The Founders created our Constitution with a separation of powers to make sure that no president, whoever he or she may be, commit the United States to an international agreement without congressional approval.
"Secretary Clinton supports Barack Obama's approach to these negotiations and supports the terms of the deal that would allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon," Cotton said.
He explained that the letter was sent to Iran because "we wanted to make crystal clear" that Tehran understood that no future president or Congress could be beholden to any deal signed with the current White House.
"Barack Obama proposes to do something called executive agreement," Cotton said, "and an executive agreement is not binding on a future Congress or president.
"It's a major nuclear agreement not with a friendly nation but state sponsor of terrorism."
He said the deal should be subjected to at least a majority vote by the Senate. "Barack Obama is proposing to have no vote at all."
Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran and Harvard-trained lawyer, also slammed Kerry's testimony to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on the Tehran talks. The secretary said the deal could not be changed by Congress.
"We've been clear from the beginning: We're not negotiating a 'legally binding' plan," Kerry told the panel
. "We're negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don't even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now."
But Cotton, who does not sit on the committee, hit back twice on Twitter:
"The U.S. is focused on stopping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb — not just today and tomorrow, but 10 and 15 years from now," Cotton later told Van Susteren.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who also signed Cotton's letter, challenged Kerry's testimony, too.
"Any deal the Obama administration makes with Iran should be subject to congressional approval," he told Newsmax on Wednesday. "There is broad bipartisan agreement that we cannot allow Iran to continue pursuing nuclear weapons capability.
"It’s hard to understand why the administration is taking issue with Senate Democrats and Republicans making a determination on whether the deal is good or bad."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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