Brown Announces Bipartisan Agreement on North Korea Sanctions Bill, Named in Honor of Otto Warmbier

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), joined by Banking Committee members Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), reached an agreement on bipartisan legislation to strengthen and expand current U.S. sanctions on North Korea. The legislation is scheduled to be acted on by the Banking Committee next week.

The bill is titled the “Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act of 2017,” in honor of Ohioan Otto Warmbier, who lost his life after being held prisoner by the North Korean regime. The agreed-upon legislation will appear as a substitute amendment to S. 1591, the Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act of 2017, authored by Senators Toomey and Van Hollen.

North Korea’s actions have drawn international condemnation. A North Korea armed with nuclear weapons presents an existential threat to several of its Asian neighbors, as well as a great danger to American citizens. The Banking Committee has held hearings to assess the effectiveness of the current sanctions regime and its enforcement, and to assess whether additional sanctions are necessary in light of North Korea’s continued missile testing and advancing nuclear weapons capability.

“We are sending a clear signal that the U.S. is serious about increasing pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, and to stop its continuing human rights abuses like those that took the life of Otto Warmbier,” said Brown. “I thank Chairman Crapo, and Senators Toomey and Van Hollen for their leadership on this issue.”

“The time has come for the U.S. to take the lead to ensure that all nations work together to isolate the Kim regime until it has no choice but to change its dangerous, belligerent behavior,” said Crapo. “I thank Senators Brown, Toomey and Van Hollen for their hard work and partnership on this important issue.”

“North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and militaristic actions threaten the United States and our allies, further underscoring the need for tougher economic sanctions,” said Toomey. “I am pleased to work with Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and Senator Van Hollen on bipartisan legislation that would expand and enforce tough sanctions against financial institutions and firms that are providing illicit support to Kim Jong Un's regime.”

“I want to thank Senator Toomey for being a great partner in crafting this critical legislation, as well as Chairman Crapo and Ranking Member Brown for their leadership and tireless work on North Korea sanctions. It is imperative that we exert maximum economic pressure to bring North Korea to the negotiating table with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula,” said Van Hollen. “This bill fills an important gap in our current sanctions regime against North Korea by going after the foreign banks and firms that provide illicit support to Kim Jong Un. It will put sharp enforcement teeth behind United Nations sanctions and send a clear message to anyone who has any business dealings with North Korea – you can do business with them or you can do business with the United States, but you can't do business with both.”

“It is time we put a ‘Closed For Business’ sign on North Korea and enact the strongest sanctions possible to isolate the Kim regime, and this new legislation is an important part of the debate,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, who has been a leader on the North Korea sanctions issue on the Foreign Relations Committee. “I have introduced legislation in the Foreign Relations Committee that would combine the most intense economic pressure with comprehensive diplomatic tools to force North Korea to the negotiating table. Only an American diplomatic strategy that includes direct talks with Pyongyang has any hope of peacefully denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. As these bills move forward, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Banking and Foreign Relations Committees on a bipartisan basis to achieve this crucial goal.”

Highlights of the legislation include measures to:

  • Strengthen and expand U.S. sanctions on North Korea and its financial facilitators and supporters;
  • Strengthen Congressional oversight of North Korea sanctions;
  • Allow states and local governments to divest from, or prohibit investment in, companies that engage in certain defined investment activity in North Korea;
  • Strengthen Treasury’s role in combating human trafficking.

The legislation will be marked up on November 7 at 10:00 a.m. in room 538 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. 

Click here for bill text.

###