The Iran Sanctions Act, which imposed nuclear, missile and terrorism sanctions on Iran, expires at the end of 2016, and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress support extending it.
But Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acknowledged that lawmakers have not yet unified behind a proposal that would attract enough votes to pass and become law.
“Members have different views,” he said at a roundtable discussion with reporters.

Translation: Democrats are talking out of both sides of their mouths on Iran, and Republicans are letting them get away with it. Democrats write letters and give speeches expressing how “profoundly” concerned they are about recent Iranian behavior. Nevertheless, they can never quite bring themselves to do something about Iranian aggression and defiance.

In an email to Right Turn, sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz writes, “Remember when President Obama, Secretary [John] Kerry and other top officials promised Congress that they would use tough non-nuclear sanctions to deter and punish Iran’s malign behavior. Many Democrats supported the Iran deal based on those promises.” He continues, “Those administration promises were broken and that malign behavior now has gotten even worse. Now the administration is arguing that they don’t need any new authorities and are threatening to veto any bill no matter how limited in scope.” Democrats, sensitive as always to the White House’s demands not to disturb its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “achievement,” therefore object to meaningful sanctions. Congressional Democrats are only abetting the administration. The administration, if not met with bipartisan opposition, will continue to permit “a dynamic of Iranian blackmail that will handcuff the next president and paralyze U.S. policy on Iran,” as Dubowitz puts it.

Democratic hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed in the pro-Israel community. An official at a pro-Israel group recalls, “There was a firm commitment from many who supported the Iran deal that they would come through on tough non-nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. It is high time for them to deliver on that commitment because Iran has repeatedly and flagrantly disregarded restrictions on missile testing and development.”

Democrats get away with it because Republicans won’t force the matter. Cardin (D-Md.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) engage in endless discussions trying to reach a bipartisan consensus. Even with the newly released State Department report tagging Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Democrats won’t act forcefully. Democrats, if serious, could easily sign onto one or both pieces of Republican-backed legislation that would increase sanctions for human rights abuses, support for terrorism and illegal missile tests.

It’s high time that Republicans put their Democratic colleagues’ feet to the fire. The Senate majority leader has vowed not to bring Iran legislation to the floor unless it has 67 votes to sustain a veto. Why? He should instead make Democrats take the vote and explain their refusal to match rhetoric with deeds. Even Hillary Clinton has spoken forcefully in favor of new sanctions. Maybe she could lend her political capital to a legislative push. (If she refused, that would certainly be telling.)

Senate Democrats have become expert in talking a good game on Iran, while enabling the White House’s acquiescence. If Democrats pay no political price for doing so, they’ll keep on doing it. Right now that seems very likely.