Congress has a habit of giving favorable names to legislation it deems necessary to pass, but names that can not always be honest to the truth. Take the Patriot Act for example. Introduced in the aftermath of the tragic September 11th attacks, the title implies patriotism at a time when the country needed it most. Beyond the title, the legislation itself was anything but patriotic.
These are the games Congress plays. They know how to deceive the American public.
So when the Otto Warmbier Act hit the floor, it was expected to pass without resistance. For the most part, it did. But Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) opposed and voted against the legislation, which was a sanctions bill against North Korea.
The legislation itself was named for Otto Warmbier, an American citizen who was detained by North Korea and tortured to a point where he was returned home brain dead. Warmbier had visited the nation as a tourist, something that is widely discouraged for obvious reasons, and paid the price.
The condemnation from the United States was swift, and tensions have only continued to escalate against the North Korean government in the months since.
Why would anyone vote against legislation designed to discipline the North Korean regime? Why would anyone vote against such legislation, especially when it is named for an American citizen who was inhumanely tortured by their government?
In a statement, Rep. Massie stated that non-military sanctions have a history of not working very well. The effects of these sanctions tend to be more negative with effects ranging from escalating tensions to hurting American business interests abroad.
Furthermore, the citizens suffer more from these sanctions than the government does. North Korea is a nation where much of its population lives in extreme poverty while the government lives lavishly. Like with any dictatorship, hardship will roll down on the people, and make the citizens of the country absorb the loss. This will strengthen the propaganda of the North Korean regime, who can use the sanctions as evidence that Americans are monsters.
While the move is sure to raise eyebrows with casual observers and political opponents alike, Rep. Massie made the right call here.
The ineffectiveness of sanctions often bite back against the United States as tensions driven up. Given that tensions are already escalating enough with the North Korean government, it’s best that Congress should not add fuel on the fire. If the North Koreans are to be properly dealt with, it should be done so responsibly.
On this point, Congress should certainly be involved.
President Donald Trump and members of his administration have in the past suggested military action is not off the table. But unless the United States faces an imminent threat of invasion or attack, the Constitution requires the President to seek the authorization of Congress.
Diplomacy may not be a lost cause, and most would prefer it to all guns blazing. It is certainly preferable to all hell breaking loose. Whatever path we choose going forward, it should be a responsible, but assertive position that actually hurts the North Korean regime and does not leave the people suffering needlessly.
In voting against the Otto Warmbier Act seeking to slap North Korea with sanctions, Rep. Massie made the right call.