They may not be happy that Sen. Tom Cotton went to the trouble of drafting a letter to the President reminding him that he needs to run any Iranian nuclear deal by Congress before emptying the silos and shipping off the yellowcake (which, it seems, was never actually sent to Iran), but that doesn’t make Congressional Democrats any less likely to bristle at the thought of coming to the bargaining table with the mullahs.
Democrats – including the Administration – assumed, at least according to POLITICO and other media outlets, that Cotton’s letter would make it easier to pick off Democrats who had previously expressed conscern at the Administration’s willingness to engage in talks with Iran. After a week of signature-gathering and snarky responses, however, the White House hasn’t managed to pick up any support it didn’t already have. And skeptical Democrats are still being maddeningly skeptical.
Though several Democratic senators told POLITICO they were offended by the missive authored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), none of them said it would cause them to drop their support for bills to impose new sanctions on Iran or give Congress review power over a nuclear deal…”The letter’s incredibly unfortunate and inappropriate,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a centrist Democrat who voted for the sanctions bill in committee and is a sponsor of the congressional approval legislation. “That doesn’t diminish my support for the legislation that we introduced.”
Though the White House has seized on the GOP’s “open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” in an effort to shift the politics of the nuclear negotiations in its favor on Capitol Hill, there’s no evidence it’s working so far. Nearly all of the 54 Republicans and more than a dozen Democrats in the Senate remain at odds with the president on the issue.
That’s far more than enough to kill any deal. And that’s before you consider that there are competing proposals. Sen. Mark Kirk, for example, is floating an bill amongst his colleagues that would increase sanctions on Iran, if Iran doesn’t take the barganing process seriously, or walks away from a deal once it’s signed. And controlling Iranian sanctions is, of course, Congress’s prerogative. They set them, after all. And more to the point, while Barack Obama won’t be running for anything except Mayor of Palm Springs in 2016, Senate Dems who serve 6-year terms will have to answer for their position on the subject, especially in moderately-red or moderately-blue states.
The good news is, for Cotton and company, that while the White House has responded with snarky comments and strongly-worded missives to Bob Corker (because, how else do you make your point clear?), they’ve still managed to mention, in every last one of their statements on the subject, that Congress does have a role to play. Which means, that despite all the White House petition signatures, garnered through an endless stream of MoveOn.org emails, nothing about the letter is wrong, precisely. It’s just mean. Or something. But right. But definitely mean.
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