Vice President Joe Biden expressed his outrage towards a letter sent by Republican senators to Iranian leaders that suggested President Obama's nuclear negotiations with the country were nothing more than an "executive agreement."
"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system," Sen. Tom Cotton and 46 others wrote in the letter. The letter explained that anything not approved by Congress was considered a "mere executive agreement." The letter explained two constitutional provisions that essentially meant that the agreement may not be valid after President Obama leaves office.
"What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we 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," the letter read. "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. We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress."
In his responding statement, Vice President Biden said that the senators' undermining of the President offended him.
"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," Birden wrote. "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. The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.
"The President has committed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the statement continued. "He has made clear that no deal is preferable to a bad deal that fails to achieve this objective, and he has made clear that all options remain on the table. The current negotiations offer the best prospect in many years to address the serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would be a dangerous mistake to scuttle a peaceful resolution, especially while diplomacy is still underway."
The senators' letter, as noted by Quartz, is historically unprecidented. Biden added that it "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 wrote. “But this is no way to make America safer or stronger."
In a statement provided to and translated by CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said: "We believe this letter has no legal value and is indeed just a propaganda ploy."
In the letter, Sen. Tom Cotton claims that any international treaty must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. CNN notes, however, that it is the President who ratifies treaties for the U.S. The Senate rather only has the power to take up a "resolution of ratification" and it is this resolution that must pass a two-thirds majority.
Nonetheless, the letter is intended to pressure the White House to give Congress final approval over the Iran nuclear program deal that is currently in negotiations.
Photo Credit: qz.com, Jim Greenhill/Flickr