Republicans send open letter to Iran

Daily News Article - March 11, 2015


1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. Why did Republican Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Senators send a letter to Iran?

3. How did the White House / President Obama respond to the letter?

4. Read the letter the Senators sent to Iran’s leader included under “Background” below the questions. What is the tone of the letter?

5. a) List all of the people quoted in this article, which was written by two AP reporters, plus another four reporters who contributed to the story (see the bottom of the article).
b) Which person, key to this news story, is not quoted in this article?
c) Why do you think the reporters chose not to include any quote from this person?

6. From the U.S. State Department website: A treaty is a formal, written agreement between sovereign states or between states and international organizations. In the United States, treaties are negotiated through the executive branch, which includes the Department of State. Once the negotiators have accepted the terms of the treaty, the president sends the treaty to the U.S. Senate for its “advice and consent” on ratification, or endorsement. If [two-thirds of] the Senate agrees that the president should ratify the treaty, it goes back to him and he ratifies the treaty with his signature. (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states: [The president] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur)

The State Department also explains the difference between treaties and executive agreements.

The following are three kinds of executive agreements that are not treaties:

(1) Agreements Pursuant to Treaty - The President may conclude an international agreement pursuant to a treaty brought into force with the advice and consent of the Senate, the provisions of which constitute authorization for the agreement by the Executive without subsequent action by the Congress;

(2) Agreements Pursuant to Legislation - The President may conclude an international agreement on the basis of existing legislation or subject to legislation to be enacted by the Congress; and

(3) Agreements Pursuant to the Constitutional Authority of the President - The President may conclude an international agreement on any subject within his constitutional authority so long as the agreement is not inconsistent with legislation enacted by the Congress in the exercise of its constitutional authority. The constitutional sources of authority for the President to conclude international agreements include:

(a) The President's authority as Chief Executive to represent the nation in foreign affairs;
(b) The President's authority to receive ambassadors and other public ministers;
(c) The President's authority as "Commander-in-Chief"; and
(d) The President's authority to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Essentially, the President can enter an executive agreement without the "consent and advice" of two thirds of the senate if a previous treaty or legislation gives him the power to do so, or if he is doing so according to another constitutional duty. (

Watch the video under “Resources” below. The White House said Sen. Cotton’s letter was part of an ongoing partisan strategy to undermine the president's ability to conduct foreign policy. What do you think: are the Republican Senators undermining the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, or is President Obama undermining Congress by choosing to negotiate with our enemy Iran by executive agreement instead of by treaty? Explain your answer.