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 CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Has Congress captured Russia policy? 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.

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Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' 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 PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul suggests restaurants should hire COVID-19 survivors as servers during pandemic Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test 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.”

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Paul hoped to attach an amendment that would remove the waivers but was blocked by Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Trump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in 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 CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out 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 SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Trump's new interest in water resources — why now? 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.”