March 10th, 2015

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Thoughts on the Cotton Letter to Iran

The letter by Senator Tom Cotton, and signed by 46 other Republican senators ("Cotton letter") is the second time that Republicans have violated the existing protocols on how the U.S. conducts foreign policy. As is often the case, much of the argument I have seen revolves around whether such action is treason or a violation of law, the contention being that if it is not prohibited by law then it is perfectly permissible.

This ignores the fact that something as complex as government requires respect for unwritten conventions and respect for the institution as a whole to function. Republicans appear to have made a concerted opinion to undermine the Executive Branch on the exercise of foreign policy well beyond the usual, unwritten bounds. The Cotton letter is extraordinary in that it is a public statement addressed to a foreign power by a substantial number of Senators to undermine the negotiating ability of the President. As with Boehner's invitation to Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, it is technically permissible (nothing stops Senators, in the exercise of their duties, from saying publicly how they plan to vote in the event a treaty is placed before them for ratification), but destructive of the institution and undermines our ability as a country to conduct foreign policy.

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