This vote was on an amendment that would have barred the U.S. government from providing food aid to North Korea.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that authorizes federal programs that assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Kyl said his amendment was necessary because members of the Obama Administration had broken promises to him not to offer food aid to North Korea. After the promise was made, Obama Administration officials had offered to provide food aid in an effort to draw North Korea to the negotiating table over its attempts to develop nuclear weapons, Sen. Kyl said.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) had offered a competing amendment that would ban food aid for North Korea but give the president the ability to waive the ban if the White House found that providing food aid was in the United States’ national interest. However, Sen. Kyl argued that a complete ban was necessary, saying he did not trust President Obama’s judgment on dealing with North Korea.
“On four separate occasions over just a couple of months, the administration had assured members of the Senate that it would not use food aid as an enticement to the North Koreans to come to the negotiating table,” Sen. Kyl said. “A mere 3 weeks later, we do exactly the opposite. That is why a waiver for the president to say otherwise does not do any good.”
Opponents of Sen. Kyl’s amendment argued that it would hamstring the efforts of President Obama – as well as future presidents – to bring about a peaceful resolution to conflicts on the Korean Peninsula.
“Ronald Reagan said it best when he said very clearly that ‘a hungry child knows no politics.’ That was Ronald Reagan's policy. That is the policy of churches all across our country,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said. “The fact is that if the Kyl amendment were to pass, you will have tied the hands of any president on a sensitive national security issue where the president deserves that kind of flexibility.”
Sen. Kyl’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 43-56. Voting “yea” were 42 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 4 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to bar the U.S. government from providing food aid to North Korea.