Iran Showdown Brings Obama and Congress to New Low

NYT FDCarl Hulse March 10, 2015

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Good Tuesday morning from Washington, where the clock is ticking ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email news conference and possible Republican presidential candidates are lining up to face the firefighters. The Senate would rather discuss human trafficking than the attorney general nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, but after Republicans in the chamber tried to derail negotiations with Iran, foreign policy is the biggest hot spot between Congress and the White House.

The escalating fight over a potential Obama administration nuclear deal with Iran has sent relations between President Obama and congressional Republicans plummeting to a new low as the White House on Monday accused Senate Republicans of actively undermining administration foreign policy.

In a remarkable statement, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was unsparing in his criticism of an open letter from 47 Senate Republicans to the Iranian government warning that any agreement could be overturned by the next administration. Mr. Biden, a senator for more than three decades, called the letter offensive and said that undercutting “a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”

Some Democrats went even further and suggested that the letter to Iran could even violate the Logan Act. The act, dating from the administration of John Adams, makes it a crime for an unauthorized American citizen to correspond with a foreign government “to defeat the measures of the United States.”

The dispute is unlikely to end in a criminal case. But coming just days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel challenged Mr. Obama over the Iran deal from the House chamber, it was clear that the antagonism between Republicans and the president was spilling into foreign policy in ways veteran lawmakers said they had never seen before.

Republicans who signed the letter said it was necessary to make their views known. But Congress and the White House appeared to be entering a combative new phase over foreign policy just a few months after Republicans assumed control of the House and Senate.