A new package of financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea has a hit a snag in the Senate, where the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has objected to the House's decision to include penalties targeting Pyongyang in the legislation.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters Wednesday that he preferred to keep the North Korea sanctions in a separate bill that would be considered by the Senate. The last-minute hurdle may prevent passage of the measure before Congress breaks for its August recess.
But Corker insisted House and Senate Republicans would come up with a solution that ensures the bill becomes law.
"It's not going to become a calamity," he said. "We will work out a way to get through this."
His remarks came less than 18 hours after the House overwhelmingly passed the bill, 419-3, to sanction all three U.S. adversaries. The penalties on Moscow are for its meddling in the presidential election and military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
According to the bill, President Donald Trump would be barred from easing the Russia sanctions without first getting permission from Congress, a demand that could imperil his bid for better relations with Moscow.
A version of the sanctions legislation that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes.
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"Not a word of the North Korea bill has been looked at over here. Not a word," Corker said.
But House lawmakers have fired back, noting that the House decisively passed a North Korea-only sanctions bill in May, yet the Senate never took that bill up. They added that it's all the more important to push ahead with the North Korea sanctions following a report that U.S. intelligence officials believe Pyongyang will have a reliable, intercontinental missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon as early as next year.
"That is why the House added the previously House-passed North Korea sanctions bill — which has been languishing in the Senate for over two months — to the Senate bill," said Matt Sparks, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he has no objections to making the North Korea sanctions part of the overall package.
"There's nothing in the bill that I find problematic," he said. "I hope we pass it the way it is."