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McConnell defends Senate GOP’s letter to Iran leadership

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We turn now to the letter that's widening the gap between the White House and congressional Republicans over the Iran nuclear talks. The war of words only heated up today.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader:

    It's pretty obvious that the president does not want Congress to have any say-so over the bad deal that we're certain he seems to be inclined to make.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showed no sign of backing down today. Instead, he defended the letter drafted by freshman Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by McConnell and 45 other GOP colleagues.

    It declared any nuclear deal with Iran that lacks congressional approval would be solely an executive agreement between the president and Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. And it went on to warn, "The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time."

    Cotton elaborated in an interview with ABC News.

    REP. TOM COTTON, (R) Arkansas: I'm trying to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, today, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. And the leadership of Iran needs to know if the Congress doesn't approve a deal, Congress is not going to accept the deal.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The move got a double-barreled response from the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Vice President Biden, a former longtime senator, denounced the letter in a lengthy statement last night.

    He said it was — quote — "beneath the dignity of an institution I revere." And he continued: "This letter 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."

    This morning, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin picked up where Biden left off.

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, (D) Illinois: We don't have an agreement. We're days away from understanding whether there's a possibility of an agreement. And yet these 47 senators have basically said, don't waste your time. We're not going to accept it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, charged the letter was part of a campaign to undermine the negotiations.

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran (through interpreter): It is a propaganda ploy and has no legal value. It shows how concerned they are.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    As the verbal battle lines are drawn more clearly, a new TV ad looks to conjure fear of a potential Iranian nuclear attack in the United States. The group behind the ad run by three former senators aims to torpedo the deal with the latest deadline for the Iran nuclear talks now just three weeks away.

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