Senators expect quick path for North Korea sanctions
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Top senators expect a quick path through the chamber for legislation cracking down on North Korea after the country said it tested a hydrogen bomb.

Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal 'Fix' the Iran deal, but don't move the goalposts North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (D-Md.), who oversee the Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that new sanctions legislation, which passed out of the committee earlier Thursday, could be on the Senate floor in a matter of weeks.

Corker said he expects the Senate will take up the legislation during the second week of February.

Cardin, asked about a potential timeline, referred back to his Republican counterpart, adding, "I think before we go out for our next ... district work period."

Senators are expected to go back to their home states the week of Feb. 15, giving them two weeks to bring up the legislation.

The Maryland Democrat added that while he believes the underlying North Korea legislation would "pass overwhelmingly," he voiced concern about potentially controversial amendments being attached to an otherwise uncontroversial proposal.

"The question is what happens on the floor of the Senate," he said. "I think Senator Corker and I can defend the bill [on North Korea] but if it gets into other areas, you never know."

No debate time has been officially scheduled yet.

Asked about the potential for floor action before the February recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office added that the Republican leader has been in "regular contact" with Corker, as well as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), about North Korea sanctions.

McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters earlier this month that he would "schedule floor time on it shortly."

The legislation would expand upon a House-passed bill, with Cardin saying that there have been conversations among staffers in both chambers about the wider Senate legislation.

The Senate proposal would require the Obama administration to sanction anyone involved with North Korea's nuclear weapons program, arms-related materials, luxury goods, human rights abuses, activities that negatively impact cybersecurity and the use of coal or metals in any of the activities.

Penalties would include freezing assets under U.S. jurisdiction, banning individuals from traveling to the United States or blocking government contracts.

The legislation comes after lawmakers worked to combine legislation from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with a proposal from Gardner.

Gardner, who called Obama's policy of "strategic patience" a "strategic failure," said the mandatory sanctions will help apply pressure to North Korea's activities "that have gone unchecked for too long."

Corker said, separately, that he expects the Obama administration would support the legislation.

"It's something that has been negotiated in a bipartisan way but is a very strong piece of legislation and I think will become law," he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.