A reader writes:
Another precedent that I can think of is Nancy Pelosi going off to meet with Bashar Assad of Syria three years ago in contravention to the clear policy of the Bush administration and the United States.
How about Congressmen Miller, McDermott and Bonior going to Iraq in 2002 and trashing the shit out of Bush on American national television?
Mark Kirk, the Republican who now holds Obama's senate seat, personally told Chinese officials not to believe US budget numbers. He even bragged about the incident on video.
As loathesome as Eric Cantor may be, his actions are by no means unprecedented. In fact, there is a statute, the Logan Act, that directly addresses the issue of unauthorized interference in US foreign affairs by private individuals.
The statute was enacted in 1799 during the Adams Administration to deal with what was considered to be meddling by private US citizens in connection with the US position in conflicts between Britain and France. Notwithstanding the longevity of the statute, no one has ever been prosecuted for violating it. In recent years the Logan Act has frequently been brought up in connection with "private diplomacy" by people such as Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson. In 1975, there were accusations that Sens. McGovern and Sparkman should be charged under the Logan Act because of a trip they made to Cuba. The Department of State rendered a legal opinion, however, that the law should probably not be applied to members of Congress.