Even Politico, a reliably leftist media outlet that has done its best to support Barack Obama from pillar to post, is now tacitly acknowledging that hard-line Senator Tom Cotton has won his battle with the administration over the letter he authored to Iran that was signed by 46 other GOP senators.
Key to understanding Cotton’s victory are two developments: the White House doing its damndest to vilify him on the Sunday talks shows, thus acknowledging he had not been defeated, and the refusal of Democrats who had rejected Obama’s focus on diplomacy to abandon their position despite the White House attempting to use Cotton’s letter to persuade them to do so.
Establishment GOP members who denigrated Cotton’s effort and refused to sign it, like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, joined by Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, were left behind as not one whit of support for sanctions melted away.
Secretary of State John Kerry, trotted out on Sunday to appear on CBS’s Face the Nation, was asked if he would apologize to Iran for Cotton’s letter. Kerry, the erstwhile critic of American forces, pathological liar, and long-time hater of America, blustered of the former Army captain and Bronze Star recipient, “Not on your life, I’m not going to apologize for an unconstitutional and un-thought-out action by somebody who’s been in the United States Senate for sixty-some days.”
Politico tries hard to make it seem like Cotton’s efforts had failed by making a bipartisan issue into a partisan one, quoting Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) saying, “The letter was simply unacceptable, and it brought hyperpartisanship to an issue that we need to maintain our bipartisanship in”; echoed by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who asserted “The letter’s incredibly unfortunate and inappropriate”; and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) adding, “This is a sad day in America when people are trying to kill negotiations that are underway.”
But Peters concluded by saying of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker’s bill, which would give Congress 60 days to reject or approve of any deal, “That doesn’t change my support for that bill. … I stay firm.” Heitkamp said of Cotton’s letter, “That doesn’t diminish my support for the legislation that we introduced.” When Nelson was asked if he would abandon support for Corker’s bill, “No. I’m an original co-sponsor.” Sen. Michael Bennet of (D-CO) co-sponsored Corker’s bill the day after Cotton’s letter created an uproar; he became the 11th Democrat to line up behind Corker.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, desperately trying to win any victory at all for his boss, wrote a letter to Corker, released on Saturday, begging him to postpone a vote on his bill. He said the bill “goes well beyond ensuring that Congress has a role to play in any deal with Iran.” McDonough added that negotiations could continue until June, but Cotton had no interest in placating the White House. Cotton had bluntly stated on Thursday, “Let a couple days go by. We think there’s going to be really ignited momentum. Nobody’s dropping out. We’ve had reaffirmed commitment” from Democrats.
In the Senate, virtually all of the 54 Republicans have joined with over a dozen Democrats in the Senate to champion increased sanctions against Iran; in the House, hearings will be held this week to ferret out information from administration officials on Iran. In 2013, the House voted 400-20 for harsh sanctions against Iran.
GOP insiders state that several Democrats told then privately that they still supported sanctions despite Cotton’s letter. Corker’s bill, which would give Congress the power to invalidate any deal Obama makes with Iran, is likely to come before the floor in April.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has offered another bill that would implement sanctions if Iran abandons talks or reneges on a deal. Kirk alleged that 68 senators have already said they would back his bill, and he said his support would increase “once we actually vote.”