The Senate and the Politics of US Foreign Policy

An interesting exchange took place between Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today. Senator Rubio challenged Secretary Kerry on the question of Iran and how the US strategy in dealing with ISIS, and Secretary Kerry pushed back. The United States is currently engaged in negotiation with Iran in an effort to prevent it from securing a nuclear weapon. At the same time, the United States and Iran share a desire to weaken the position of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

US foreign policy on both questions were complicated earlier this week when 47 Republican Senators wrote an open letter to Iran’s hardline government warning them that any agreement with the United States would need to be approved by the Senate. Iran’s Foreign Minister dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy” while Vice President Joe Biden decried the letter as an attempt to “undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations” and “beneath the dignity [of the Senate].”

The most recent exchange between Secretary Kerry and Senator Rubio highlight the ongoing tensions between the Obama White House and the Republican-controlled Senate over US foreign policy, and suggest that foreign policy may be a central point of debate in the 2016 Presidential elections.

What do you think? Do recent efforts by Republican Senators to affect the outcome of US negotiations with Iran undermine the effectiveness of President Obama’s foreign policy initiatives? Has the Senate overstepped traditional boundaries in US foreign policy? Are the right to attempt to limit the White House’s autonomy in this area? And how would you address the situation if you were a Senator?

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