Republican 2016 Contenders, Hillary Clinton Spar Over Letter to Tehran

Despite criticism that the Senate GOP overstepped by writing to Iran, some of the party’s presidential hopefuls are shouting, “Me, too!”

National Journal
Kimberly Railey and Adam Wollner
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Kimberly Railey and Adam Wollner
March 11, 2015, 8:43 a.m.

The GOP’s 2016 con­tenders aren’t just ral­ly­ing be­hind a con­tro­ver­sial let­ter Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans sent to Tehran. Many are eager to af­fix their sig­na­tures.

Most po­ten­tial Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates are ex­press­ing sup­port for the let­ter signed by 47 GOP sen­at­ors, warn­ing Ir­an that the next pres­id­ent could eas­ily undo any nuc­le­ar agree­ment brokered by Pres­id­ent Obama if it is not ap­proved by Con­gress.

The let­ter, writ­ten by Sen. Tom Cot­ton of Arkan­sas, already in­cludes the names of four sen­at­ors who are con­sid­er­ing White House cam­paigns: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Ru­bio, and Lind­sey Gra­ham.

From out­side Wash­ing­ton, Louisi­ana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal was the first to weigh in Tues­day, call­ing on all pro­spect­ive pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates in both parties to sign on.

“[E]very single per­son think­ing about run­ning for pres­id­ent, on both sides, should sign on to this let­ter to make clear to Ir­an that they are ne­go­ti­at­ing with a lame-duck pres­id­ent,” Jin­dal said in a state­ment. “Make no mis­take—any Ir­an deal that Pres­id­ent Obama makes is not bind­ing on a fu­ture pres­id­ent.”

Later Tues­day, Cot­ton’s of­fice an­nounced that Jin­dal’s name was ad­ded to the let­ter.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry also was quick to an­nounce he would aid the ef­fort, tweet­ing, “I would be proud and honored to sign the let­ter @Sen­Tom­Cot­ton has put for­ward on Ir­an.” Cot­ton tweeted back, “I wel­come your sig­na­ture!”

Rick San­tor­um, former sen­at­or from Pennsylvania, praised Cot­ton’s ef­fort too, adding that Obama can­not “usurp” the Sen­ate’s au­thor­ity. “I am grate­ful that the U.S. Sen­ate is ex­er­cising their con­sti­tu­tion­al prerog­at­ive to stop this reck­less dip­lomacy by the Obama-Kerry-Clin­ton for­eign policy team,” San­tor­um said in a state­ment.

Mean­while, Scott Walk­er and Jeb Bush signaled their sup­port for the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans’ ef­forts without ex­pli­citly sign­ing on to the let­ter.

“Re­pub­lic­ans need to en­sure that any deal Pres­id­ent Obama reaches with Ir­an re­ceives con­gres­sion­al re­view,” Walk­er said in the state­ment. “Un­less the White House is pre­pared to sub­mit the Ir­an deal it ne­go­ti­ates for con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al, the next pres­id­ent should not be bound [by] it. I will con­tin­ue to ex­press that con­cern pub­licly to the pres­id­ent and dir­ectly to the Amer­ic­an people.”

Bush took a sim­il­ar route, cri­ti­ciz­ing the White House’s hand­ling of the is­sue. “The sen­at­ors are re­act­ing to re­ports of a bad deal that will likely en­able Ir­an to be­come a nuc­le­ar state over time,” Bush said in a state­ment. “They would not have been put in this po­s­i­tion had the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sul­ted reg­u­larly with them rather than ig­nor­ing their in­put.”

For her part, former Hew­lett-Pack­ard CEO Carly Fior­ina said in a state­ment to The Huff­ing­ton Post that Re­pub­lic­ans “need to con­tin­ue to work to­ward a bi­par­tis­an, veto-proof ma­jor­ity of sen­at­ors who will de­mand their right­ful and con­sti­tu­tion­al place in the ne­go­ti­ation ap­prov­al pro­cess.”

What about the Demo­crats? Former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton called the let­ter “out of step with the best tra­di­tions of Amer­ic­an lead­er­ship.”

UP­DATE: Clin­ton fur­ther cri­ti­cized the let­ter af­ter­noon, this time ex­pli­citly go­ing after her 2016 rivals in a tweet: “GOP let­ter to Ir­a­ni­an cler­ics un­der­mines Amer­ic­an lead­er­ship. No one con­sid­er­ing run­ning for com­mand­er-in-chief should be sign­ing on.”

Jin­dal’s Twit­ter reply: “.@Hil­laryC­lin­ton No one who al­lows Ir­an to be­come a nuc­le­ar power should con­sider run­ning.”

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