This vote was on an amendment by Sam Brownback, R-Kan., that would put the Senate on record as endorsing the opinion that the State Department should designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The amendment was offered to the bill that authorizes Defense Department programs in fiscal 2010.
Brownback’s amendment was offered as an alternative to another amendment submitted by John Kerry, D-Mass., which would mandate that the president to report to Congress with an examination of whether North Korea should be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. The debate occurred as a result of escalating ballistic missile testing North Korea engaged in during the latter half of 2008, which caused the international community to be concerned about the country’s capability to strike with nuclear warheads.
Kerry called his amendment a “responsible alternative” to Brownback’s and said lawmakers should give sanctions time to work before acting in this manner.
Brownback responded that it seemed to him that sanctions have not worked at all and that it is time to re-add North Korea to the list, which imposes strict financial sanctions including on economic assistance, and on exports.
“I find it very interesting to hear the statement that the sanctions are working. I am trying to think of how they are working at all. They are working to prevent North Korea from detonating another nuclear weapon? That did not quite work. We got another one of those. They are working to prevent them from launching more missiles? Well, that one did not quite work. They are working to prevent North Korea from taking Americans hostage? Well, that one did not quite work,” Brownback said.
Kerry said his amendment would do more than just express an opinion, it would order a report. He also added that one of the items listed as fact inside Brownback’s amendment, which would also be endorsed by the Senate if it were passed, is that North Korea has provided support to the terrorist group Hezbollah, a charge Kerry said has not been sustained by the intelligence community.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility for the Senate to pass an amendment based on a finding that is false. It is important to have a report to the Senate that requires us to evaluate, that would have the administration submit to us precisely what the situation is,” Kerry said.
By a vote of 43-54, the amendment was rejected. All but two Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but four Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language expressing the opinion that North Korea should be added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. (Kerry’s amendment was adopted, see vote 238).