At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) discussed Iran’s repeated violations of a United Nations ban on ballistic missile tests:

One area that we all agree on is the need to be tough on any destabilizing or illegal action by Iran. With that view, I think the agreement is off to a really terrible start. … Failure to impose any consequences on Iran for its violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions and other destabilizing actions sets a dangerous precedent … before implementation of the nuclear agreement, when sanctions are lifted and the leverage shifts to Iran.

But the Obama administration has no interest in making sure the deal is closely policed. Hence we see its rush to lift sanctions without exploring the implications of the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s program in the wake of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s confirmation that Iran lied in denying a weapons program existed.

Instead of putting the screws on Iran, the administration plays the role of its defense counsel, insisting to members of Congress that Iran is complying with the deal. (Fox News reports: “Stephen Mull, the lead coordinator for implementation of the deal at the State Department, said Iran has begun dismantling its uranium enrichment system by removing thousands of centrifuges and transferring them into a storage facility that will be monitored by international nuclear inspectors.”) It seems that if the administration can find evidence of compliance somewhere, the noncompliance in other areas does not count.

Senate Democrats are understandably nervous, having — with four exceptions — lined up dutifully to protect the deal and taken at face value the administration’s promises to take action on Iran’s misconduct (e.g. human rights violations, missile tests, support for terrorism) in other areas. Fox News reports on Thursday’s hearing:

Democratic senators at the committee agreed that there should be “zero tolerance” of violations of the nuclear deal or any other international obligations, said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the committee. His comments were echoed by Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Coons of Delaware.

So what do Democrats do? Certainly not line up in favor of sanctions to impose a penalty for those violations. They write letters, of course. If it were not gravely serious, one could not help but laugh over a letter from 21 Democrats (two who opposed the deal and 19 who filibustered a vote on the deal) sent Thursday that intones, “We are deeply concerned by Iran’s continued violations of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1929 by testing a second ballistic missile on November 21, 2015. . . . ” Deeply concerned. Profoundly worried. Next, perhaps we will hear they are “truly worried” or “fundamentally distressed.” These are all weasel words, too little and too late to ameliorate the consequences of their decision to stick by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

It is noteworthy that the deal’s harshest Democratic critic, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), did not sign the letter. It’s a mark of honesty that he could not bring himself to sign onto this pathetic, toothless plea for the president to “take action unilaterally, or in coordination with our European allies.” Why don’t they and the rest of the Senate take action?

It was altogether foreseeable that Iran would take advantage of every loophole and ambiguity in the deal. Senators knew there was no guarantee that sanctions would remain in place even if the IAEA could not run down all the implications of PMDs. The Democrats were aware of the “self-inspection” travesty at Parchin. And they should have also figured out that the administration’s promises to hold Iran accountable on other fronts were empty.

So, no, expressing “deep concern” in a letter does not get them off the hook. It simply highlights their political cowardice and the dangerous irresponsibility of 19 of the letter’s signatories who filibustered a vote on the JCPOA (and those who didn’t even have the nerve to sign the meaningless letter). Democrats, in signing on to the Corker-Cardin bill, voted themselves the opportunity to stop a bad deal, but when the moment came they could not even allow a vote, let alone vote against a very bad deal.

It is not only Iran that should be held accountable, but also every single one of the Democrats in the House and Senate who protected the deal, as well as Hillary Clinton, who cheered it from the sidelines. (Is she also deeply concerned? Profoundly worried?) Having failed in their primary obligation — national security — Democrats who supported the deal should not be reelected, and certainly not promoted, for their spinelessness.