Republicans send letter to Iran amid nuke talks teaching them about ‘two features of our Constitution’

Almost half of the Senate, and nearly every Republican, warned Iran on Monday that it’s the role of Congress to approve international treaties, and that any agreement that fails to come before Congress would be treated as a short-term agreement with the Obama administration that could be quickly overturned.

“[W]e will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” they wrote in an open letter to Iran. “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.”

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and dozens of other Senate Republicans warned Iran Monday that a nuclear deal without the Senate’s approval isn’t much of a deal at all. Image: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

While the letter was addressed to Iran, it effectively warned the Obama administration as well that Republicans are looking for a hard and fast deal that will put real limits on Iran’s ability to continue its nuclear program. Reports surfaced a few weeks ago that the emerging deal would let Iran keep its nuclear program intact, and then resume work on its weapons program after 10 years.

Many Republicans are also skeptical that Iran would submit to inspections, and some have noted that in the past, Iran has failed to declare the existence of some nuclear facilities.

The letter, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), specifically outlined how the Constitution guides the government when considering international treaties.

“First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them,” they wrote. “In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.”

“A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate),” they added. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.”

The letter also noted that while Obama will have left office two years from now, many of the same senators who are likely to oppose the emerging nuclear deal will still be around.

“As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades,” they wrote.

The administration is hoping to finalize a framework agreement with Iran by the end of the month. Several Democrats have said they would be open to voting for a new Iran sanctions bill if no acceptable framework deal can be reached.

Read the GOP letter here: