Sen. Cotton Defends Letter Sent On Iran During National Press Appearances

Mar 10, 2015

Sen. Tom Cotton defending his efforts Tuesday morning on MSNBC.
Credit MSNBC

The American people should be committed to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Tuesday morning.

Cotton and 46 other Republicans sent a letter Monday to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran about negotiations between the United States and Iran on nuclear weapons.

The letter was not signed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who sponsored a bill in the past to increase sanctions on Iran. That bill was approved and signed into law.

Cotton went on Morning Joe on MSNBC Tuesday morning and the Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN Monday afternoon to discuss the letter.

The letter drew complaints from President Barack Obama and other Democrats, saying the letter undercut the President’s ability to negotiate with foreign countries. But, a stronger policy involving Iran has been pushed by Democrats like Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ.

However, Cotton and the senators said in the letter that Congress has a constitutional role in foreign policy.

The letter reads in full:

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.

Cotton said the letter that was sent was an open letter and that at least four Republicans considering White House bids – Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rand Paul, R-Kentucky and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – signed the letter.

The letter was also signed by the state’s senior senator, John Boozman, R-Ark.