Republican senators said Wednesday they were surprised by the backlash to a letter sent to Iran's leaders
to warn that a nuclear agreement with President Barack Obama likely would not stand with future administrations, but none say they regret co-signing the letter.
Sen. John McCain, one of the 47 who signed off on the letter, admitted that perhaps he and other lawmakers "probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is," reports Politico
"It was kind of a very rapid process," the Arizona Republican said. "Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm."
The fallout from the letter
, authored by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton and signed by all but seven Republicans — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Jeff Flake, Arizona; Daniel Coats, Indiana; Susan Collins, Maine; Thad Cochran, Mississippi; and Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee — is continuing to grow.
On Wednesday, Democrat campaign teams began circulating the numerous newspaper editorials criticizing Republicans who signed off on the letter, and the issue will likely show up in television ads where vulnerable senators are seeking re-election, reports Politico.
The political fallout is growing as well. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has spoken twice on the Senate floor to attack Republican "gimmicks" on the Iranian talks. In addition to the letter to Iran's leaders, Republicans have come under fire after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress about the dangers of Iran potentially obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The letter and ensuing controversy could also affect a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on legislation to allow the Senate more input on a deal with Iran over its nuclear capabilities.
Maine independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said he backs such legislation, but the Iran letter is giving him second thoughts.
"If I'm not convinced that this issue can be handled on the merits and not on a partisan basis," he said, "then I'm going to change my mind."
There will also likely be more political repercussions following the letter, Democrat strategists said, with one commenting there is "no question" ads are coming to attack Republicans who signed the letter.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, of Mississippi, said if the attacks come, Democrats are doing so "at their peril," and that he thinks they "really are dancing on a pin there."
Democrats are also complaining about the partisan nature of the letter. Cotton says Democrats were approached about signing it, but Politico reports it was not able to find even one who knew about the letter before it was made public.
"Everything that has been done with the Iranian nuclear issue for years has been bipartisan," said Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey. "Why would people go in the direction of not having it bipartisan?"
Earlier this year, Democrats told Obama they would not vote on a pending sanctions bill in the Senate until after the March 24 talks deadline and last week set a deadline on proposed legislation from Corker to let Congress be involved in the deal.
Corker said he did not sign the letter because he was concerned that it would hurt hopes for a majority to sign off on his bill.
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