Has anything like this ever happened before?

Has there ever been an occasion when members of Congress have written to the leaders of a foreign nation not to strike a deal with the US president? Because this is quite amazing to me:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“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.”

The Republicans seem to have become quite unhinged in their effort to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. It seems as if they consider Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu to be their president and look to him to decide what the US’s stance vis-à-vis Iran should be and are willing to shamelessly undermine president Obama by actually telling the people the US is negotiating with that they cannot trust the US position.

One wonders what Iran, not to mention other nations, think about this latest gambit. Not only that, if the roles were reversed and some Democratic congresspersons had done this to a Republican president, Fox News would have been the leader in calling them traitors and urging that they be lined up and summarily shot.

Update: We don’t have to guess. Iran’s foreign minister has issued a statement on the letter;

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”

They see right through our Republican master strategists.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    “Yay Democracy! Democracy is the best system of government evars! All you towel-head dictators ought to become democracies right away, because it’s soooo awesomeful!

    Like, how it makes it impossible for anybody else to negotiate with us or trust anything our leaders say! That’s just an extra heaping dose of awesomeful!”

  2. jufulu says

    I think I’m going to have to lie down, I’m having a massive WTF moment and my brain needs to reboot. Why do they hate the Constitution and America? (/rhetorical question)

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Well, the Senate did refuse to ratify Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, which humiliated him, but doing a blatant end-run around the President on a foreign affairs issue is probably a first. But the right-wing racists have made it clear from the very beginning that they don’t accept a black man as a legitimate President, so of course they have no qualms doing crap like this.

  4. raven says

    If they threaten Iran with war enough, it makes developing a nuclear bomb, not an option but a necessity.

    From their viewpoint, they might see a tottering empire lurching around with no brains running it, hungry for war with someone for any reason, a history of pointless wars they have been losing lately, and almost half the world’s nuclear weapons.

    Turn it around. What would you do if you led Iran and someone kept threatening to destroy you? Probably go for the great equalizer.

  5. raven says

    Turn it around. What would you do if you led Iran and someone kept threatening to destroy you? Probably go for the great equalizer.

    This is BTW, exactly what Israel did. Given the history of the Jewish people and the bad neighborhood they live in, they probably thought they didn’t have much of a choice.

    No one knows how many nuclear weapons they have but it is estimated to be around 100, some of them likely to be fusion bombs.

  6. Who Cares says

    This isn’t just shitting on Obama and Iran, this is also pissing on the other negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia). Oh and smearing the resulting mess on yourself seeing that with the current world political climate the US cannot afford to renege on that deal (they can do it but it’ll be the last time that a non vassal state will get into serious negotiations). Just this threat will strengthen the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO (Shanghai Co-operation organization, founding members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. pending members currently having observer status: India, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia) power blocs; Actually following up on it after Obama leaves office will push fence sitters into their orbit.

  7. says

    No one knows how many nuclear weapons they have but it is estimated to be around 100, some of them likely to be fusion bombs.

    Most estimates put it more like 200. And now that they have the submarines the Germans sold them, they will be weaponizing some of them as third-strike deterrent.(*)
    They are probably all fusion bombs; pure fission bombs are about the same level of effort to manufacture and make nastier fall-out. The bomb that Israel tested off South Africa during the “Vela incident” appears to have been an enhanced-radiation warhead (AKA: “neutron bomb”) which makes sense given Israel’s obssession regarding expanding its territory: a bomb that just kills people is a nice thing if you’re a monster.

    (* Tacit admission from the Israeli regime that the various “mad mullahs” they keep talking about can be deterred in spite of their fantastic rhetoric about the contrary!!!)

  8. David Wilford says

    There’s no downside for the Republican Party doing this as far as I can tell, given the general antipathy of most U.S. voters towards Iran. That still doesn’t make it right, but as I see it, this is a way for the GOP to drive a wedge in the U.S. Jewish vote, which largely trends Democratic. In states like Florida, it’s a critical demographic too, and I’m sure that the Republican’s strategists have that in mind.

  9. gshelley says

    Is there any mention of who the 7 Republicans who don’t feel that the desires of the Israeli president should come ahead of American interests are?

  10. Holms says

    I have never seen anything so petty, so ill-advised, at such a high government level before I started paying attention to US politics and discovered the Republican party and their constituents. The fact that they have control over nukes at all is a disaster.

  11. brucegee1962 says

    Very well put, raven @5.

    You can also add to that equation the knowledge that apparently around 50% of this hypothetical country’s populace seems to be willing to vote for dangerous lunatics, and I’m suprised every country isn’t investing heavily on nukes.

  12. gshelley says

    Apparently : Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
    Did not sign
    Murkowski and Collins are I think on what passes for the liberal wing of the GOP, and seem to be willing to put the country ahead of being anti-Obama. the others I don’t know

  13. starskeptic says

    Just when I think the Repubs can’t get any lower in their disrespect for this president and the nation, they manage to put in a little extra effort.

  14. lorn says

    Randomfactor @4 nails it:
    “Logan Act. Felony.”

    Private citizens, which is what congressmen are in this policy area, cannot conduct or interfere with foreign policy. Foreign policy is entirely an executive branch responsibility.


    As a felony, it would seem to be an impeachable offense. Impeachment, it isn’t just for the executive any more.

  15. says

    It’s not the first time.

    Ronnie Raygun wasn’t even elected to office when he and the republicans wrote to the Iranian regime in 1980. They offered the Iranians weapons in exchange for keeping the hostages longer than the Iranians planned.

  16. lanir says

    This is the sort of thing I was actually hoping to not see from Republicans after they got their majorities in congress. I didn’t expect much really. I just hoped that this sort of grandstanding childish temper tantrum would seem like something you can’t afford to do. As the majority, there’s no larger group to check your actions -- they can go through largely unimpeded. So in situations like this where they can work against the best interests of the country in dangerous ways I was hoping the damage they could do would make them pause and the moment would pass.

    I was wrong. They decided grandstanding temper tantrums were worth more to them than anything vaguely resembling responsible governance.

    So to the party that thinks they can go on a spending spree then refuse to pay the bills, thinks they get to be “the government” when it’s time to choose policy but not when it’s time to implement it or deal with the fallout and consequences, and has an inordinate juvenile interest in everything to do with lady parts, I can only think of one way to respond: Grow up. Please. Do it quickly. Stop pretending you’re strutting around a playground acting like the cool kids and start doing the job you were elected for -- responsible governance.

  17. says

    As part of a science fiction story I had worked on a few years ago, I laid out a “future history.” I predicted that the 2016 Presidential election would create dramatic fissures in America’s body politic, leading to a civil war right after the 2020 elections. That prediction is looking less and less like fiction.

  18. Holms says

    How unreasonable were they all along, and how much of that unreasonableness is actually fairly reasonable given their neighbours and antagonism from the US? We are finding out increasingly lately that the poor-persecuted-orphan routine from Israel is a sham, and is backed by the largest military on earth.

  19. aashiq says

    This letter is actually good news, since it exposes the crazies in Washington and consolidates support for Obama. I will bet the letter was drafted by AIPAC (or at least approved by it), which represents the Israel right-wing and “runs” Congress on Mideast matters. AIPAC has spent 3 decades grooming Congress, to get majority votes on demand for its initiatives.

    I hope Obama succeeds in the Iran deal, so that we can take the first steps towards extracting ourselves from the Mideast muck and looking towards Asia, where India and China represent future opportunities.

    If anyone doubted that Israel and the US do not share common aspirational values, this pathetic drama with Republican turncoats should put any questions to rest. I am horrified.

  20. says

    lanir @17:

    I dare say that assuming the GOP, especially its Tea Party faction, was elected to do the job of responsible governance is an error.

  21. lanir says

    composer99 @24:

    I know what you mean. There was always the hope that the worst of that fell under the category of “things politicians say to get elected” and would never get acted upon though. Now I guess the only thing to hope for is that it doesn’t come up too often. That the whole “American exceptionalism” nonsense doesn’t lead them to thinking they can do as much damage as they want without consequences because it’ll remain “exceptional” or something.

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