When a clutch of Senate Democrats wrote letters to the Obama administration to express profound “concern” that it was doing nothing about Iran’s illegal missile tests, I was, well, skeptical that they would actually do something about it. No sooner had they sustained a filibuster to permit the deal to go forward than Senate Democrats began looking for toothless ways to cover themselves and deflect criticism for their support for an unpopular deal. But their real chance was when the vote was pending. At the time, they lined up — with four exceptions — behind the White House.

So now comes an opportunity for Senate Democrats to prove skeptics wrong. The Post reports:

Just weeks after the Iran nuclear deal took effect, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking fresh aim at Tehran with stepped-up sanctions to punish the Islamic Republic for aggressive non-nuclear activities.
Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and at least one other senator are crafting new measures to address everything from Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests to the country’s human rights violations to a reauthorization of the soon-expiring Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). The measures, which are likely to come up in February, will be Congress’ latest attempts to ensure President Obama punishes Tehran for bad behavior in the wake of the now-implemented nuclear deal.

The bill should have wide bipartisan support, right? Um, no. The Hill observes, “While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are still hashing out the specifics, the issue is already splitting Democrats into two camps: Lawmakers who believe recent sanctions from President Obama go far enough and those who think Congress needs to further crackdown on Iran.” Surprise, surprise, but two of the profoundly concerned senators oppose any tough action:

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) defended the administration’s recent actions on Tuesday, calling the sanctions against 11 individuals tied to Iran’s missile program “sufficient.”
“I think we should hold over Iran’s head the prospect of additional sanctions should they continue to test but I’m supportive of the steps the administration took,” he said, dismissing the need for Congress to take additional action.
But Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who had pushed for the administration to crackdown on Iran, said he’s “not sure there’s a need for more [sanctions.]”

Kaine’s and Murphy’s excuse does not pass the straight-face test. Critics of the deal, including pro-Israel groups, scoffed at the limited steps of the administration, calling them essentially worse than nothing. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) echoed that sentiment. “It’s difficult to understand how anyone could see the White House’s response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests as sufficient, but it seems that once again, some Senate Democrats are more interested in protecting President Obama’s political legacy than protecting the American people from Iran,” he told Right Turn. “Iran’s behavior over the last several months clearly indicates aggression toward the United States. At a minimum we should pass new missile sanctions immediately, but a better approach would be to pull the plug on the Iran nuclear deal entirely as a punishment.”

As we said, it comes as no shock that Democrats’ actions don’t match their pretty words. “While Republicans offered unanimous opposition to the Iran deal Democrats hemmed and hawed [and] ending up giving the disastrous deal overwhelming support,” said Mark McNulty, a spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition. “In 2016 Republicans including the RJC are going to make sure that voters know not only how Senators voted on the Iran deal but all subsequent legislation — like missile sanctions — concerning their ability to threaten Europe, Israel, the United States and the rest of the world.” He warned, “2016 Democrat Senators and Hillary Clinton should think long and hard before they continue down the Obama administration path of appeasement toward Iran.”

Republicans certainly intend to make the most of the issue in November. “The Iran issue is going to hurt Senate Democrats for two very glaring reasons,” Ian Prior of American Crossroads told Right Turn. “First, the Clinton-Obama doctrine of appeasement towards Iran is going to have a toxic effect on Democrats up and down the ticket. Second, even Democrats who may hold their noses and vote for Hillary are going to want a check against a professional liar like Hillary.” He argues, “This does not bode well for down ballot Democrats that have indicated that they will be rubber stamps for the White House, especially on issues of national security.”

The issue has already come up in Ohio, where incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) is slamming his likely opponent, former governor Ted Strickland, for his support for the deal.

Senators will get a chance at some point to cast their votes on new sanctions. A spokesman from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office confirms that first will come a vote on new sanctions on North Korea. But then, Senate Democrats will be pressed to take a stand on whatever Corker comes up with. Moreover, as The Post reported, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) “has already co-authored, along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), legislation to extend [the Iran Sanctions Act] past 2016, and wants to step up sanctions against Tehran for its ballistic missile tests and human rights violations.” It is time for Senate Democrats to show whether they are more than rubber stamps for a rotten deal and a president whose foreign policy legacy will be bleak.