Senate locks down North Korea sanctions vote

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The Senate will vote next week on legislation to crack down on North Korea after the country said it tested a hydrogen bomb. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said the Senate will take up sanctions legislation on Feb. 10 and have a final vote after up to seven hours of debate. 
“[It’s a] very important piece of legislation that I’m pleased to say the whole Senate thinks ought to be taken up and voted on and passed, and it will be an important change in our policy toward this rogue regime,” the Republican leader said after setting up the vote. 
The move comes after Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the top two members of the Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that the Senate would take up the legislation next week. 
The committee approved the legislation by voice vote last month after lawmakers worked to combine legislation from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with a proposal from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). 
The Senate legislation goes further than a House bill that passed in January
Under the Senate proposal, the Obama administration is required 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.

McConnell’s move will also help the legislation avoid any potential landmines that could pop up if a senator tried to offer a controversial amendment—similar to what happened when the Senate debated legislation allowing Congress to review the Iran nuclear deal. 

Cardin voiced concern that so-called “poison pill” amendments could get attached to the otherwise uncontroversial proposal. 

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

Tags Ben Cardin Bob Corker Cory Gardner Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Robert Menendez
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