Senate backs new North Korea sanctions
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The Senate unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea Wednesday in a 96-0 vote that follows what Pyongyang says was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb.

Senators suggested the legislation is a long-needed step amid frustration that the United Nations Security Council is moving too slowly to pass new sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy.

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerClinton administration official knocks 'soap opera' of Trump White House Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued the bill was a strong piece of legislation that would make a difference with North Korea.

Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezThe Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump MORE (D-N.J.), who helped spearhead the sanctions legislation, urged his colleagues to pass the bill unanimously, saying it would “create a ripple effect, not only here but across the world.”

The legislation 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.

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSheriff Clarke denies plagiarism report, calls reporter a 'sleaze bag' GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges House votes to expand death penalty for police killings MORE (R-Ky.), who suspended his presidential campaign earlier this month, slammed the legislation ahead of the vote because it included national security waivers, which would allow the president to waive the North Korea sanctions.

“For decades now Congress has granted the president national security waivers,” he said. “Then Congress complains because the president is doing an overreaching, and yet we give him the very power.”

Paul hoped to attach an amendment that would remove the waivers but was blocked by Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerSenators introduce lifetime lobbying ban for lawmakers Democrats prod Trump Interior nominee over lobbying work GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding MORE (R-Colo.), who said senators had included provisions in the legislation to block the president from broadly using the waivers.

Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) also urged his colleagues to support an amendment that would require a report from Obama on Iran’s potential ties to North Korea’s nuclear program, but it was not included in the bill.

Because the Senate's version of the sanctions legislation expands upon House legislation, the House will need to pass the Senate bill or negotiate a new bill with the Senate.

Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinWorries mount about vacancies in Trump's State Department Pence marks Armed Forces Day with vow to rebuild military Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible MORE (D-Md.) suggested Wednesday that it was unclear if a House-Senate conference committee would be needed.

“Our hope is that we don’t need a conference,” he told The Hill. “We hope we can do this quite quickly.”

Menendez added, separately, that he hopes the House will pass the legislation by consent, allowing lawmakers to skip a conference and get the bill to Obama’s desk faster.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIf you want to identify as 'pro-life,' then support pro-abortion rights Spike Lee on Trump: Bad dancer, 'not my president' Biden fuels 2020 speculation MORE (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed the vote, which came a day after he won the New Hampshire primary. He said in a statement that he supports the sanctions, calling them “absolutely essential” to ending North Korea’s nuclear program.

Both of the Senate's GOP presidential candidates — Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges Abortion poses hurdle for Senate healthcare bill Senator's photo spurs caption contest MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco RubioDHS extends protected status for Haitians for six months Congress should let local communities set their own PACE Rubio: ‘People got what they voted for’ MORE (Fla.) — backed the legislation, marking their first roll call votes since Jan. 20.

Cruz — who slammed the president’s policy in a letter Wednesday — told reporters ahead of the vote that under the Obama administration “the enemies of America have gotten more and more aggressive and we need a commander in chief who can keep this country safe.”