Just when you thought congressional Republicans’ disdain for President Barack Obama couldn’t be any more apparent, scores of GOP senators upset about the still-developing nuclear agreement with Iran took it to an unprecedented level last week: They went over Obama’s head. To Iran.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol's Senate studio on the possibility of arming the Ukrainians in their conflict with Russian-backed rebels, Feb. 5, 2015.
Image: Tom Williams CQ/Roll Call

Throughout history, Congress has sparred with the sitting president – though mainly on domestic policy matters. Foreign policy has traditionally been a White House-driven mission, with Congress weighing in officially when members’ role is specifically defined, and unofficially as critics or cheerleaders for executive branch policies being contemplated or implemented.

But at no time in history, lawmakers and experts say, have members of the legislative branch done something quite as audacious as 47 Republican senators recently did. Unhappy about what they believe will be a bad deal for the U.S. and its ally Israel, the lawmakers sent an open letter to the leaders of Iran, basically warning that any deal reached might have a short shelf life. In a brief (and academically sketchy, experts say) explainer of the U.S. Constitution, the senators informed Iran that any deal struck could be undone with the stroke of a pen by the next president.

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