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Russia Sanctions Bill Still Not a Done Deal

Corker says Senate likely to remove North Korea provisions in House-passed version

Sen. Bob Corker anticipates the Senate will remove North Korea language from a House-passed sanctions bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Bob Corker anticipates the Senate will remove North Korea language from a House-passed sanctions bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: 11:38 a.m. | The question of when Congress will strengthen sanctions against Russia remains unclear.

The House overwhelmingly passed a package Tuesday that includes new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, sending the measure to the Senate ahead of the August recess. Only three members of the House voted against the combined bill.

But, Senate Foreign Relation Relations Chairman Bob Corker said Wednesday that senators want to make changes to the North Korea portion, which he says was not the result of a House-Senate negotiation. He noted that senators may be interested in congressional review language.

“At the end of the day, they decided to send over a North Korea bill,” the Tennessee Republican said. “It’s something that we have never sat down and worked through the language on, like we did with them on both the other pieces that came through, and so we have people in our body that want to weigh in on those issues.”

A House Republican aide disagreed with the assessment from Corker, telling Roll Call that North Korea had in fact been part of talks between negotiators from the two chambers. The aide also said that the Senate’s desire to have a process for congressional review of any effort to ease sanctions on North Korea was a new issue.

Corker, speaking at a foreign policy event sponsored by the Washington Post, said the Senate’s potential decision to strip out the North Korea language should not be considered an “affront.” He said the concern was more about the crunched timeline due to the looming August recess.

Several senators have already been working on North Korea sanctions legislation, including GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

That legislation has not advanced, and there is palpable frustration on the House side of the Capitol.

“Nearly three months ago, the House passed strong North Korea sanctions by a vote of 419-1. The Senate did not take up the bill, even after Kim Jong Un launched a new ICBM that could soon be capable of hitting California. Now the House has acted again, by a vote of 419-3,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California said in a statement. “Further delay on North Korea is completely unacceptable.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer seemed to be on the side of Royce.

“Earlier today, I understand the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee indicated he plans to strip out a section of this package that relates to North Korea.  This is yet another delay generated by Republicans to prevent this bill from landing on the President’s desk before we leave for the recess,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor. “I will work with the Majority Leader to schedule another vote on the sanctions bill so that we can send the legislation to the President’s desk before the recess.”

Schumer indicated he would be willing to have the sanctions debate on the floor even with other business pending.

Corker, however, said there might not be enough time to resolve the disagreement over North Korea before August.

“It’s going to be difficult within the time frame that we have to deal with that. What likely will happen today. Something could change … what likely will happen is we will strip out the North Korea piece and send it back to them,” Corker said.