Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act Of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: June 20, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Kerry-Lugar amendment is a side-by-side amendment, frankly, which will counter the amendment of the Senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl.

We all join in abhorring the conduct of the Government of North Korea. Nobody contests that. The question here is whether we want to have a complete prohibition on any humanitarian assistance, without the possibility of a Presidential waiver in the event that the President, as a matter of national policy, as a matter of our humanitarian policy, decides that something has changed in North Korea or there is behavior that has been altered by North Korea, as in Burma. If we don't have a Presidential waiver, the Kyl amendment permanently locks in--until there is other congressional action--a complete prohibition on any humanitarian assistance to the people--not the government but the people, the children and families of North Korea.

Ronald Reagan said very clearly that ``a hungry child knows no politics.'' I believe we ought to uphold that principle and have the Presidential waiver in this particular case.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, there is an important distinction here. If you are going to provide humanitarian assistance in some circumstance, and the administration made good on its promise to do that, it is hard to separate it from the events as they are going forward that you do not control. No matter who is President, the Senate should not tie the hands of any President with respect to this policy.

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. 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.

Without a national interest waiver, you lock into place a prohibition in North Korea. What happens if suddenly you had a change, as in Burma? You would be locked in and unable to respond to it.


Mr. KERRY. You would take away the option of the President. In the case of Burma or other places, the President has shown the flexibility. The President ought to have the flexibility here. I hope we will not have a total prohibition on humanitarian assistance.


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