Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan managed to slam the recent and controversial letter written by Republican Senator Tom Cotton and signed by many of his Republican colleagues through a proposed amendment.
The letter, written by Cotton and signed by 46 other Republicans, was addressed to Iranian leaders and warned that future presidents are not obligated to abide by any deal concerning nuclear negotiations made by President Obama. The letter was an attempt to undermine Obama’s current negotiations with Iran, and is viewed as a hugely unpopular move for Cotton and the Republicans who signed it, even by those who disagree with Obama’s handling of Iran.
Republicans and some Democrats take issue with Obama’s reticence to discuss any potential deal with Iran with Congress. The Constitution requires any treaty to be adopted with the advice and consent of the Senate, and many object to Obama’s reluctance to involve Congress.
Yet even most who believe that Congress should be more involved were shocked by the letter and believe that it was, at the very least, a breach of protocol and a politically bad move. Some even questioned if the letter violated the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from negotiating policy with a foreign government, stating, “Any citizen of the United States […] who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government […] with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
The Obama administration never commented on whether or not Tom Cotton and other signatories were in violation of the Logan Act, choosing instead to treat the letter as a “dangerous piece of naivete,” as the Huffington Post reported.
“This letter is not a serious foreign policy critique,” the White House concluded on the matter of Cotton’s letter to Iran. “It is an effort to score political points in ways that are profoundly dangerous.”
Still, Senate Democrats were outraged, and Stabenow decided to do something about it. On Wednesday, Stabenow filed an amendment that may not mention her colleague Senator Cotton by name, but doesn’t really have to, either. After all, the written purpose of the amendment makes her intentions quiet clear.
“PURPOSE: To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting the purchase of stationary [sic] or electronic devices for the purpose of members of Congress or congressional staff communicating with foreign governments and undermining the role of the President as Head of State in international nuclear negotiations on behalf of the United States.”
In other words, Stabenow’s amendment wants to defund any future letters written by Senator Cotton.
Of course, the amendment is unlikely to become law, since it is a non-binding resolution rather than a formal funding decree, and Republicans will be even less likely to bring it up for an actual vote in the Senate.
Despite the improbability of it ever becoming law, Senator Stabenow’s amendment was a direct jab at Cotton, and certainly made her view on his letter to Iran obvious.
[Image by Bill Pugliano / Getty Images]