Obama: 'Once I sign the agreement, you can read the agreement'unless that agreement first passes the Congress (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “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.”
Many inside the Republican caucus, however, hope that by pointing out the long-term fragility of a deal with no congressional approval -- something Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also noted -- the Iranian regime might be convinced to think twice. "Iran's ayatollahs need to know before agreeing to any nuclear deal that … any unilateral executive agreement is one they accept at their own peril,” Cotton told me.
The new letter is the latest piece of an effort by Senators in both parties to ensure that Congress will have some say if and when a deal is signed. Senators Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine and the embattled Bob Menendez have a bill pending that would mandate a Congressional review of the Iran deal, but Republicans and Democrats have been bickering over how to proceed in the face of a threatened presidential veto.The White House reacted furiously, arguing that the bill 'undermines' the President's ability 'to conduct foreign policy.' No kidding. Wasn't that the whole point of the letter (Hat Tip: Memeorandum)?
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was unusually blunt in ripping the Senate GOP, saying “it’s surprising to me there are some Republican senators who are seeking to establish a backchannel with hardliners in Iran to undermine an agreement with Iran and the international community.”
Earnest said Republicans have a “long and rather sordid history" of putting military options ahead of diplomatic ones, and called the letter, signed by 47 GOP lawmakers, “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s authority."
Congressional Democrats joined the White House in denouncing the letter, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) calling it “a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations — it weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world.”
“Understand that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely,” added Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat.Senate Republicans “should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East,” he added.
The White House and Democrats appeared to be coordinating their response, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) assailing Republicans on the Senate floor as “undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs."
"Republicans need to find a way to get over their animosity of President Obama,” Reid said.
"It's unprecedented for one political party to directly intervene in an international negotiation with a sole goal of embarrassing the president of the United States."
On Monday evening, President Obama was asked to comment about the Senators' letter.The letter is just the latest instance of Republicans using control of Congress to challenge Obama on foreign policy, in part by going over his head.
A member of the press asked Obama, "Can you comment on the Republican letter to Iran? Can you comment on that?"
"I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. It's an unusual coalition," Obama told the reporter.
"I think what we’re going to focus on right now is actually seeing whether we can get a deal or not. And once we do -- if we do -- then we’ll be able to make the case to the American people, and I'm confident we’ll be able to implement it."That reminded me of this from then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Let's go to the videotape.
What could go wrong?