A letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iranian leaders in defiance of President Barack Obama is a civics lesson, not the act of traitors, said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, the freshman Republican who drafted the message.
“We’re making sure that Iran’s leaders understand if Congress doesn’t approve a deal, Congress won’t accept a deal,” Cotton, 38, whose letter evoked a sharp rebuke from the White House, said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “Because we’re committing to stopping Iran from getting a weapon.”
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats excoriated the letter’s authors yesterday, saying Republican leaders were reaching out to a U.S. adversary to try to undermine the president. The front page of the New York Daily News Tuesday put images of Cotton and other Senate Republicans with the headline “Traitors.”
Asked whether the signatories were traitors, Cotton replied negatively and said they were just trying to speak for the American people.
Cotton’s open letter addressed to the leaders of the Islamic republic warned that any agreement they struck with Obama on their nuclear program may be reversed by his successor or changed by lawmakers in the U.S.
“This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American president, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States,” Biden said in a statement yesterday.
Cotton shot back Tuesday.
“Joe Biden, as Barack Obama’s own Secretary of Defense has said, has been wrong about nearly every major foreign policy and national security decision in the last 40 years,” he said.
The back and forth between Republicans in Congress and the White House comes as the Obama administration faces and end-of- month deadline on a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama and White House officials have said the likelihood of reaching a deal is no more than 50 percent.
Republicans, including Cotton, have said Congress should have the final say on the deal, a proposal Obama has rejected.
Cotton said any deal with Iran should force total disarmament of the country’s nuclear program. If Iran doesn’t agree, the U.S. should be willing to use military force, he said.
“I think we have to have a credible threat of military force on the table,” he said.
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