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Sanctions bill against North Korea passed by near unanimous House vote

The House and Senate approved the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act by a combined vote of 504-2.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 12, 2016 at 5:09 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved new punitive measures against North Korea -- by a near unanimous vote -- for the communist nation's recent actions of perceived aggression.

The House passed H.R. 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, by a vote of 408-2 Friday and sent it to President Barack Obama's desk, where the White House said he will sign it.

The bill seeks to penalize entities or individuals who aid Pyongyang in nuclear, trade or human rights abuse issues.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., also earmarks $10 million per year to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and increase access to media for citizens -- a measure intended to allow North Korean citizens an uncensored and unrestricted voice to express grievances against the Kim Jong-un regime.

"We need to keep tightening the screws," Royce said.

There was some question as to whether Obama would support the new sanctions, but a spokesman clarified the president's position while traveling aboard Air Force One from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, Calif., on Friday.

"The administration is deeply concerned about North Korea's recent action and the serious setback that this test represents," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday. "We are philosophically and intellectually in the same place on this. This will not be a bill that we oppose."

The Senate passed the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act Wednesday by a vote of 96-0 -- meaning the only lawmakers in either chamber to oppose the bill are Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

Massie said he voted against the bill because he believes it expands the president's executive authority and legitimizes the United Nations, which he believes should be dissolved.

Amash did so because he believes "unconstitutional civil asset forfeiture provisions" in the bill "violate due process rights of Americans."

New punitive measures are intended to ratchet up economic and political pressure on North Korea after a series of actions -- including reported nuclear and missile tests, as well as a satellite launch -- that many interpreted as provocative acts by a rogue state.

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