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Timing Issues Complicate North Korea Sanctions

Adding language to Russia sanctions bill could delay Senate consideration

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is working with House lawmakers on potentially adding North Korea sanctions to legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russia. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is working with House lawmakers on potentially adding North Korea sanctions to legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russia. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)


House and Senate lawmakers have run into timing issues in trying to add language imposing new sanctions on North Korea to a bill already passed by the Senate that would place new sanctions on Iran and Russia.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said on Wednesday discussions between the two chambers continue, but noted that adding the North Korea language “does create some complications we were unaware of.”

“We’ve been meeting with our House counterparts. We had a large meeting yesterday evening … and another taking place [today],” the Tennessee Republican told Roll Call. “I don’t think it’s determined yet as whether they are going to send it over with North Korea or not.”

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, has also been involved in conversations with House lawmakers on the legislation, an aide confirmed.

Adding North Korea sanctions to a bill already passed by the Senate could affect the ability of that chamber to take it up quickly. Members of both parties are hoping to move the legislation — which has been stalled in the House — before August recess.

A House Democratic aide said the new complications seem like a Republican tactic to prevent the bill from advancing quickly.

“This isn’t just tweaking around the edges. This is adding an entirely new piece of legislation onto a pretty much completely baked bill,” the aide said. “If the goal is to move this thing quickly, then let the Senate do their work on the North Korea sanctions … and get the Russian and Iran sanctions bill back to the Senate as quickly as we can.”

A spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Corker said he believes senators could support the original bill with the addition of the new language targeting Pyongyang. But he added that one solution might be to advance separately the legislation passed by the House earlier this year that would impose new sanctions on the country’s shipping industry, as well as on organizations that conduct business with North Korea.

“I don’t know yet whether it’s coming over with it or whether we will try to mark theirs up and do something with it very quickly,” he said. “When something’s added, it changes the dynamic of it and I think there’s just been additional concerns raised about the efficacy of actually getting something done before we leave.”

Corker said he believes “everyone is committed to getting a Russia sanctions bill passed quickly.”

The House Blame Game

House Democrats and Republicans have sparred continuously over the sanctions legislation. 

GOP leadership has blamed the minority party for not sending the bill back to the Senate by unanimous consent, while remaining hesitant to bring up a vote since so-called blue ship issues are typically solved in a bipartisan fashion.

The disagreement for Democrats stems from language stripped in the Senate-version of the bill that would prevent them from bringing up a resolution of disapproval should the president opt to ease sanctions on Russia or other countries covered under the bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week contested the notion that Democrats were holding up a vote on the sanctions bill.

Pelosi said she would support the measure in its current form, even if it does not allow the minority party to bring forth resolutions of disapproval should the president opt to ease sanctions — an issue that came up before the Independence Day recess. 

“I want to protect the prerogatives of the minority in the House but weighing the equities, what was more important was passing the Russian-Iran sanctions bill. So we are on board to just proceed,” the California Democrat told reporters. “We’re not holding up this bill. We have never been holding up this bill. If anybody’s holding up this bill, it’s probably the White House and that is really where you should direct your inquiry.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer has offered a compromise that would allow the majority or minority leaders — or a designee of their choosing — to bring forth such resolutions, but an agreement has not yet been reached.

Hoyer said Tuesday he was unsure how the Democratic caucus would proceed on the measure if North Korean sanctions are tacked on.

“We’ll have to discuss it,” the Maryland Democrat said.