In a statement emailed to reporters last night, Vice President Joe Biden angrily denounced Republicans for their open letter to the leaders of Iran — which he claimed was designed to undercut President Obama’s executive negotiations over their nuclear program.
“I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy,” Biden wrote. “The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”
The letter, drafted by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and signed by 47 Republican Senators, warned Iran’s leaders that any deal they signed with the president would be void after he left office.
“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.”
Biden fumed that the letter “ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States.”
“Honorable people can disagree over policy,” he added. “But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.”
Biden defended Obama’s efforts, pointing to international negotiations “since the beginning of the Republic,” including the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, diplomatic recognition of China, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War.
“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden added. “This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”
Speaking from Capitol Hill, Cotton quickly responded to Biden on Morning Joe Tuesday, reminding him that Obama’s own former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the vice president as “wrong about nearly every foreign policy and national security decision in the last 40 years.”
Cotton insisted that members of Congress were only representing the American people, citing a new poll showing that 71 percent of Americans didn’t believe that Obama’s deal would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
“[I]f Joe Biden respects the dignity of the institution of the Senate he should be insisting that the president submit any deal to approval of the Senate, which is exactly what he did on numerous deals during his time in Senate,” Cotton added.