Wednesday, March 11, update:
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley on Wednesday said Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s decision to sign a letter to leaders of Iran regarding the U.S.-Iran nuclear arms talks is “Washington politics at its worst.”
Buckley said, “Kelly Ayotte’s disturbing pattern of playing politics with national security represents Washington politics at its worst. Even worse, Ayotte is now dodging when asked about her irresponsible decision to sign a letter to the leaders of Iran that undermined U.S. foreign policy.” The NHDP said Ayotte’s statement regarding signing the letter “completely ignored the crux of the issue: her unprecedented partisan effort to weaken our nation’s foreign policy.”
“Regardless of where you stand on negotiations with Iran, Ayotte and her colleagues’ reckless actions will only serve to make America look weak in the eyes of our enemies. Ayotte should listen to Republican Senators like Susan Collins and voices from across the political spectrum and retract her support for this misguided and unprecedented attack on our nation’s foreign policy,” said Buckley.
(Our earlier report follows.)
Tuesday, March 10:
Democrats on Tuesday blasted Sen. Kelly Ayotte for joining 46 other Republican senators in an open letter to Iranian leaders warning that any nuclear arms agreement worked out between Iran and President Barack Obama is meaningless without Congressional approval.
The state Democratic chairman did not directly call Ayotte a “traitor” for signing the letter, but on Twitter, Raymond Buckley referenced a New York tabloid newspaper headline that used that word to describe all of those who signed on.
Ayotte said she signed the letter on Monday because a “nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious threat to the United States, Israel, and the world, and I am deeply concerned that the agreement the Obama administration is pursuing would allow Iran to continue its acts of regional terrorism and simply delay – and not dismantle – its nuclear weapons program. Congress led the effort to impose the toughest possible sanctions, which brought Iran to the negotiating table. With so much at stake, I believe the Senate should have an opportunity to review any agreement reached between the U.S. and Iran and vote to approve or disapprove that agreement.”
In the letter, the GOP senators state that international agreements must be ratified by two-thirds or three-fifths votes of Congress and note that because Obama is leaving office in two years, most senators will remain in office “well beyond then – perhaps decades.”
“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 senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such and executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
The letter, which was headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was viewed by critics as an attempt to undermine President Obama’s delicate negotiations with the Iranian government. Also among those signing the letter were potential presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul. Today, likely candidates Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry voiced support for the letter.
The state Democratic Party had no direct comment on Ayotte signing the letter, but Buckley noted in a Tweet: “DISASTER: Media from coast to coast calling Jr Senator & FoxNews darling @KellyAyotte a ‘traitor.’ Not a good sign for 2016.” He was referring to a New York Daily News headline calling those who signed the letter ‘Traitors.”
Buckley declined to say whether he agreed with the Daily News’ description as it applied to Ayotte.
The Daily News front page contained photos of Sens. Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, Cruz and Paul above the word, “Traitors.” NHDP spokesman Aaron Jacobs tweeted: “@KellyAyotte’s picture could go right next to Mitch, Cruz, Cotton & Rand on @NYDailyNews cover.”
Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan told the New Hampshire Journal, “I don’t know what Senator Ayotte and her 46 Republican colleagues are thinking. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia called that letter nutty behavior; I can’t decide if that is too harsh or too generous.”
Ayotte’s office had no comment on the tweets by Buckley and Jacobs or Sullivan’s comment.
NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn responded to the criticisms of Ayotte by saying, “Democrats like Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are willing to sit on the sidelines while Barack Obama negotiates a terrible deal that will allow the Iranian regime to develop a nuclear weapon in the future. This irresponsible behavior will not only undermine our strong allegiance with Israel, but also jeopardize our national security. It’s a disgrace that both Senator Shaheen and Governor Hassan are willing to march in lock step with President Obama as he pushes disastrous foreign policies that will make our world a more dangerous place to live.”
President Obama said the Republicans who signed have essentially aligned themselves with the Iranian leaders in trying to kill the deal.
“I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition,” Obama said. “I think what we’re going to focus on right now is actually seeing whether we can get a deal or not. And once we do — if we do — then we’ll be able to make the case to the American people, and I’m confident we’ll be able to implement it.”
Vice President Joe Biden said, “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. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.”
And Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said, ““For more than half a century our foreign policy has been driven by the idea that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge and I was disappointed to see this bedrock principle of our democracy compromised yesterday. This letter represented an unprecedented and dangerous attempt to undermine sensitive negotiations that are designed to keep our country safe. I sincerely hope that this effort does not destroy attempts to reach a diplomatic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program as negotiations enter a critical period.”
Two of the seven Republicans who did not sign the letter were mildly critical of those who did.
According to Politico, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said he was approached to sign the letter by Cotton, but refused because he felt it would harm his attempt to get veto-proof support for a bill he has sponsored requiring a congressional vote to approve or reject an Iran deal.
“My goal is to get 67 or more people on something that will affect the outcome,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “I don’t think that the ayatollah is going to be particularly convinced by a letter from members of the Senate, even one signed by a number of my distinguished and high ranking colleagues.”