Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn defended the controversial GOP letter to Iranian leaders as he ripped into President Barack Obama for acting like he’s the sole authority on foreign policy in Washington.
In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo News,
the Texas senator said that the president is "in denial" about Iran and that "Congress has a role" to play in the negotiations with the Islamic-led state to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons.
"I know that the president is in denial and wants to reject Congress' appropriate role," Cornyn said during the 30-minute conversation in his office overlooking the Supreme Court. "All our letter pointed out is that our government isn’t a monolith, and that the president doesn’t wield all the authority and power under our Constitution — that we’re a government of separated and divided powers."
He continued, "In particular, I think the important point was made that the term of any agreement [the president] might strike with Iran will not outlast his term of office, absent Congressional approval.
"What the president seems to be on a path to doing is trying to secure some sort of legacy settlement with Iran over its nuclear weapons, but it can’t last more than 21 more months if it was signed today."
Drawn up by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, the letter from 47 Republican senators warned Iranian leaders that any nuclear deal reducing tough economic sanctions against the Mideast country should have congressional approval or the next president could overturn it in 2017.
Although the letter has been slammed by President Barack Obama and White House officials, Democrats in the Senate who have joined with Republicans on a proposal to exert congressional oversight of an Iran agreement
have not backed off supporting the legislation, according to reports.
However, New York Rep. Peter King
has denounced fellow Republicans in the Senate for sending the open letter, saying it undermined the presidency of the United States.
While pointing out that Obama’s attempt "to go it alone" on Iran have been rejected on a bipartisan basis, Cornyn said, "We haven’t taken up [Iran legislation] requiring congressional approval, but we will, shortly after the March 24 deadline for the negotiations.
"I think it’s the president hiding his head in the sand, and when he gets caught with the consequences of his unilateral actions, he gets mad," said Cornyn. "But he shouldn’t have started down the path [of] unilateralism."
The U.S. and five other world powers — China, France, Germany, the U.K. and Russia — have been negotiating with Iran to prevent the country from building weapons of mass destruction in exchange for a lessening of sanctions.
"I would imagine they have all of their government involved," Cornyn said. "The problem is not that there are not other countries involved. The problem is that the president does not speak for the U.S. government exclusively.
"Congress has an appropriate role to play, and the president has rejected that. I think all this letter does is state the fact that the president doesn’t have plenary authority under our form of government."
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