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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers 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 PaulSekulow indicates Trump should not attend impeachment trial Trump sets record for tweets as president on day House makes impeachment case Rand Paul invites Trump to see 'partisan charade' at Senate trial 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 GardnerTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum McConnell keeps press in check as impeachment trial starts Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment 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 CardinTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum New Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment 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 SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with 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 CruzWhat to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Democrats' impeachment case lands with a thud with GOP — but real audience is voters Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech 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.”