The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved H.R. 1771 today. Only two amendments were offered at the markup, by Congressman Connolly (D., Va.) and Congressman Castro (D., Tex.). Both were good amendments that made H.R. 1771 a better and tougher piece of legislation. You can read the current version, san amendments, here.
I was struck by the bipartisan unanimity of the mark-up, compared to others I’ve seen. Several members called for Kim Jong Un’s overthrow, and some of the most strident rhetoric came from Democrats like Connolly, Elliot Engel (N.Y.), Albio Sires (N.J.), and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii). When it comes to North Korea, everyone in Congress is a neocon, it seems. If you care to, you can watch the proceedings on video.
I see the snarks at Yonhap said this:
Although the bill contains far-reaching measures to sanction North Korea, it is widely viewed as symbolic since Pyongyang is already subject to a tough set of U.N. sanctions.
You can keep on believing that if you believe Banco Delta Asia on steroids would be symbolic. With all due respect to these reporters–and as far as I can tell, they aren’t due very much–they don’t understand how the financial sanctions at the core of H.R. 1771 differ from trade sanctions at the heart of the U.N. sanctions, or how the former can give the latter teeth. You would think that some knowledge of the subject matter would be a job requirement for journalism, but it isn’t always so. Good journalists can’t be experts on everything, but they do take the time to consult with people who are. Lazy ones simply insert their ill-informed suppositions.
It is true, however, that prospects for passage of H.R. 1771 are uncertain, because of all the time that has been lost over the last year, something that has caused much grumbling and speculation among the bill’s supporters, including Korean-Americans and human rights advocates. It now has to pass the full House and move in the Senate. (I understand that the various House committees’ concerns have been resolved without damaging the final product too badly).
What are the odds that it can clear the many legislative hurdles that lie ahead in an election year, with just two months to go before the August recess? That depends on how hard Chairman Royce pushes to get this bill on the House calendar after a year of stonewalling by powerful vested interests, and how effective the bill’s supporters–all of us led by the valiant Suzanne Scholte–are at pushing both houses to advance it.
More than anything else, however, it depends on much help we get from Kim Jong Un. And right now, Kim Jong Un is a man who needs to change the subject.
One thing I will say with complete confidence is that one day, Kim Jong Un is going to do something stupid. The difference between now and every other time until now is that our weapon is loaded. It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger now.
Nor will H.R. 1771 exhaust Congress’s options for squeezing North Korea in future years after future provocations. President Obama says that North Korea’s provocations will only lead to more isolation. He isn’t actually doing that, mind you, but Congress is.