Vice President Joe Biden on Monday night scorched the 47 Senate Republicans who signed an open letter to Iran's leadership in a bid to undermine a potential deal on the country's nuclear program, calling the senators' letter "beneath the dignity" of the chamber in which they serve.
"I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy," Biden's statement said. "The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere."
While the Senate must approve treaties reached between the U.S. and foreign powers, any deal reached on Iran's nuclear program would not have the force of a treaty. Instead, it would be a diplomatic commitment akin to numerous others effected without congressional approval, the vice president noted, citing such examples as the 2013 agreement between the U.S. and Russia on Syria's chemical weapons and agreements on the basing of U.S. forces in countries like Afghanistan.
Moreover, Biden added, landmark shifts in U.S. foreign policy have occurred without congressional votes.
"Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval," he noted.
Biden went on to say that he "cannot recall" an episode similar to the issuing of GOP senators' letter, which was drafted by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). The letter, addressed to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," warned that the next president could kill a deal "with the stroke of a pen."
"This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous," Biden said.
Seven members of the Senate Republican caucus did not sign the letter, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), as well as Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK), Dan Coats (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
International negotiators face an end-of-March deadline to reach a framework agreement on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, followed by a deadline for a formal agreement at the end of June.