This vote was on an amendment by John Kerry, D-Mass., that would require the president to report to Congress on whether North Korea’s conduct since June 26, 2008, warrants its inclusion in the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism. The amendment was offered to the bill that authorizes Defense Department programs in fiscal 2010.
Kerry’s amendment was offered as an alternative to another amendment submitted by Sam Brownback, R-Kan., which would put the Senate on record as endorsing the idea that North Korea should be immediately placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The debate occurred as a result of escalating ballistic missile testing North Korea engaged in during the latter half of 2008, which has 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.
“This amendment appropriately takes note of and condemns North Korea’s recent behavior as a threat to the northeast Asian region and to international peace and security. But in contrast to the Brownback amendment … [our] amendment requires something to happen, not just a sense of the Senate that there might be a relisting. It mandates a report, a formal report, to be completed,” Kerry said.
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.
Defending his amendment, Brownback said it would take too long to get the amendment through the processes of the Congress and enacted into law, considering how quickly North Korea is moving with its missile testing program.
“And it calls for a report. I am sure Pyongyang is very concerned about this report. But I do not think it is going to change any of the behavior that is taking place. If we do not have a strong answer, as a matter of fact, it is probably going to urge them to do something even further,” Brownback said. “My colleagues are saying: Well, OK, you are being irresponsible in this statement on this narrow category of whether they are doing anything with Hezbollah. It is a bipartisan amendment that I put forward with Senator Bayh, who wanted that provision in it.” Brownback added that a Congressional Research Service report mentions North Korean support for Hezbollah.
By a vote of 66-31, Kerry’s amendment was adopted. Every Democrat present voted for the amendment. Of Republicans present, 9 voted for the amendment and 31 voted against it. The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would mandate a study of whether North Korea should be included in the list of state sponsors of terrorism.