Forty-seven Republican Tea Party (GOTP) members of the United States Senate have written an open letter to the leadership of Iran.
To undermine the legitimacy of the President of the United States and his Constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy for, and in behalf of, the United States.
The 47 GOTP Senators – aka the Gang of 47 – are led by a very freshman senator from Arkansas, Senator Tom Cotton, who is so new to the Senate he probably has to still ask directions to the men’s room. Like other brash junior GOTP senators – think Cruz, Rubio and Paul – Cotton is walking around shooting from the political hip and shooting himself in the foot, and a whole lot of his associates in the majority party. He has not taken the time to learn what the Senate does, nor what its role and responsivities are under Article I of the Constitution. It appears doubtful the freshman senator has ever read the Constitution, and if he has he certainly does not understand it. The Senate, for example, does not have purview over foreign relations except when the Executive sends it a treaty – after it has been negotiated – to ratify. Utilizing its Constitutional power of “advice and consent” it may debate and wrangle with the President concerning the treaty, but it may not negotiate with foreign countries. In fact, it is against federal law for the Senate to contact foreign countries and discuss foreign policy in any way, shape of form.
In 1798, a state legislator – George Logan – from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took it upon himself to privately negotiate with France during a period of United States history known as the “Quasi War.” The Federalist members of Congress were so angered by Logan’s self-appointed mission, they passed the Logan Act in January of 1799.
The Act simply states, “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
Not only have the Gang of 47 committed a huge act of overreach of its authority, it is also clearly in violation of the Logan Act. The little group has committed one of the greatest political acts of stupidity possibly in the annals of the United States Senate.
Although it should be abundantly clear to anyone the Senators in question had no authority to send any kind of correspondence to the leaders of another country, just in case anyone still thinks the Congress has the right to interfere, let us remove all lingering doubt.
The Supreme Court in 1936 ruled in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936), “[T]he President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.” The Senate “cannot intrude” and the Congress “is powerless.”
Technically, the President could ask the Justice Department to investigate whether the Gang of 47 committed any crime with its letter and could seek prosecution. Probably not something the President will do. The real problem for these GOTP members of the Senate is they look like rank amateurs and fools and have made their country look foolish as well.
Additionally, there is a very real political problem will be for those members of the Gang of 47 who have Presidential aspirations. Senators Ted Cruz (who can never be president), Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have all just proven – beyond a shadow of a doubt – their foreign affairs experience is somewhere between pre-K and Second Grade. One day these very junior senators will have to debate some adults, and when they do this letter will come back and bite them very deservedly in their political buttocks.
One last bit of reality for the Gang of 47 – and its groupies. The ongoing negotiations with Iran are not bilateral – meaning between the United States and Iran – but are multilateral. The United States is one of half a dozen nations negotiating Iran’s nuclear future. Currently involved in the discussions – besides the United States – are Great Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany, under the auspices of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or NPT, and as such any agreement could only be changed, or nullified, if all the signatories agreed to do so, not simply if the United States Congress, or some future GOTP President decided to so. The NPT became part of international law in 1970, being extended indefinitely in 1995. Any agreement reached through the negotiations would be a United Nations’ Security Council Resolution, and not something any future U.S. President or any member of the Congress has the authority to undo.
Maybe next time Senator Cotton thinks he needs to write a letter – along with his buddies – to another country’s leaders he’ll ask a responsible adult if it’s OK first.