Column: The danger of a divided government

After multiple attempts to diminish the president’s authority, it’s time for Congress to stop being petty and start being productive.

Last Monday, March 9, the GOP took a drastic step in its recent attempts to undermine President Barack Obama before he leaves office.

Forty-seven Republican senators — all of them but seven — sent a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that stated any deal made with Obama regarding their nuclear program would be subject to cancellation by a future administration or Congress. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who drafted the letter, said he has experienced “no regrets at all” over the situation, whereas Obama has expressed embarrassment on their part.

The Iranian nuclear talks, which have a March 31 deadline for a basic outline, address the concerns surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. The talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany aim to make sure Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful means in exchange for sanction relief. Republicans have disagreed with this stance, as they want to see stricter sanctions imposed on Iran to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons. Cotton’s letter undermines the President’s authority and explains to Iran that sanctions may still be enforced.

Republicans were careful to make the letter legal by avoiding the Logan Act, which was passed by Congress in 1799. According to CNN, this act prevents citizens from manipulating “disputes or controversies” between the U.S. and a foreign government without the authority to do so. By not taking a clear position on the Iranian negotiations, the letter narrowly avoided this act. However, this does not mean that the letter is not a burden or extremely disrespectful to the Obama administration. It is actually quite the opposite, and the situation should not be taken lightly.

The letter has exponentially increased tensions in an already apprehensive congressional atmosphere. The Iranian negotiations surrounding a momentous nuclear deal have entered their final weeks, and this letter has the ability to potentially compromise the situation. The nuclear deals, which have been meticulously discussed and negotiated between two countries that have historically had many problems, could be ruined because of this one rash decision on the GOP’s part. Furthermore, this letter comes right after House Republicans invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the White House, which was seen as a major rebuff in the Obama administration’s direction.

This letter is not the first time Obama has been shown blatant contempt by his government and citizens. President Obama’s terms in the White House have been wrought with disrespect. He has been questioned over his citizenship and academic credentials; heckled during a joint session of Congress over a false charge that would give health insurance to undocumented immigrants by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; and attacked over whether or not he loves America by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although not everyone agrees with President Obama and his policies, American citizens should still rally behind him and at least show some human decency. After all, he is our president, and it is only right to show Obama some respect.

Going behind the president’s back is also not going to assist in America’s foreign policy goals. Not only will Iran be less likely to adhere to the terms set out by the U.S. because they know those terms can change, Iran can also make a stronger case for blaming the U.S. if these nuclear talks fail due to the hostility within the American government. This will make it more difficult for economic sanctions against Iran to be upheld. If the U.S. is not able to come together to work things out as one unit, how is it supposed to solve problems concerning other countries?

While the letter sent to Iran over nuclear talks is a problem within itself, it represents a broader issue within the American political system that needs to be addressed. The partisanship between the Democratic and Republican parties has reached an unprecedented and threatening high. If the GOP keeps snubbing President Obama by going behind his back, the government could experience major consequences that would put the country’s reputation up for contest. The government needs to work as a comprehensive machine instead of two divided parties.

The recent actions of the GOP have been a disappointment to the American political system. They have, on numerous occasions, decided to take it upon themselves to “fix” a situation without the President’s approval. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated, and it is, frankly, immature. American politics is about bringing people of different backgrounds and beliefs together to work out problems. How the GOP has decided to conduct their affairs recently sheds a concerning light on the American political system.

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