Alaska’s senators have each taken a different approach to influencing how Congress shapes foreign policy. The difference was apparent after this week’s publication of an open letter to Iran regarding a potential nuclear agreement.
The United States is currently in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, which could include easing sanctions. However, a deal may be reached with President Obama bypassing Congress through an executive agreement.
On Monday, Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ar., issued the letter to Iran, warning the country that any deal made by an executive agreement from President Obama could be overturned in the future.
“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,” the letter expressed.
Sullivan was among the 47 Republican senators who signed the letter.
In an email to the Clarion, Sullivan explained why he endorsed the letter.
“On one of the most important national security issues in a generation, the idea that the President and Secretary Kerry will negotiate this deal with Iran alone – with the largest state sponsor of terrorism — flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, the law, and four decades of arms control and civil nuclear agreement precedent,” he wrote. “Like those numerous previous agreements, whatever deal the President cuts with Iran, has to be acceptable to the American people and voted on by their representatives in Congress.”
The letter to Iran was met with a stern reaction from the White House.
“This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, 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,” according to a press release from the office of Vice President Joe Biden. “Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.”
While Sullivan signed the letter, Murkowski’s name was noticeably absent.
Because Murkowski supports a bill that would give Congress the ability to review any deal, signing the letter was unnecessary, according to Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling.
Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has crafted a bill that would allow for more congressional input regarding negotiations with Iran.
The bill would bar the president from lifting sanctions for 60 days, during which Congress could review the agreement and take action.
“Senator Murkowski believes in congressional input on foreign affairs,” Felling wrote in an email, “As a co-sponsor of Chairman Corker’s bill that would allow a 60 day evaluation of the final deal for Senate approval or disapproval, she did not see the need to also sign the Cotton letter.”