Sen. Tom Cotton was working to build support for his now-controversial letter to Iranian leaders when he ran into an unexpected obstacle: Mother Nature.
“As a practical matter, the snowstorm really impeded my efforts,” said Cotton (R-Ark.), in reference to the late-winter blast that led lawmakers to rush home from Washington last week. “Everybody left on Wednesday, so I had to mostly work the phones into the weekend.”
But by the following Monday, Cotton had gotten got 46 of his 53 Republican colleagues to sign his letter, crafted to sink a potential international deal on Iran’s nuclear program. But he also drew sharp rebukes from President Obama and many other Democrats who condemned the letter as a partisan stunt and a dangerous act of defiance.
Cotton, 37, a lanky, Harvard-
educated Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he wasn’t surprised by the backlash.
“They know they can’t defend the terms of the deals they are negotiating,” Cotton said in an interview Tuesday. In less than three months, Cotton has emerged as one of the most aggressive national security hawks in the Senate, audaciously challenging Obama’s foreign policy with harsh rhetoric and confrontational tactics.
Unlike the 2010 Republican wave election, which produced a class that flashed a non-interventionist, war-weary streak embodied by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the 2014 class is a more hawkish crowd.
All 12 Republican freshmen signed Cotton’s letter. A quarter of them have served in the military: Cotton and Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).
“I do think it reflects well that the freshman class all joined it, because we ran in an election in which national security was an emerging theme,” Cotton said.
Cotton said he first drafted his letter two weekends ago. He unveiled it at a Senate GOP lunch last week and lobbied hard for signatures in the ensuing days, contacting every Republican senator and reaching out to some Democrats.