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Meet The Two Congressmen Who Defied Their Party and Voted Against North Korea Sanctions

Created: 15 February, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
2 min read

Correction update: The article originally said that Amash voted against federal aid to Flint. There has not been a vote on it in the House yet. He has come out in opposition to it.


On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill of sanctions against North Korea that received nearly unanimous support from both major parties. However, a pair of Republican lawmakers, in defiance of their party, registered their discontent with the wisdom of the policy.

Following a fourth reported nuclear test by North Korea in January and a rocket launch earlier this month, members of Congress vowed to issue sanctions against the government of Kim Jong-Un.

US Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican, said, "This acceleration of the weapons program of North Korea -- made possible by the illicit activity North Korea is involved in -- that has to be shut down."

According to supporters of increased sanctions, the launching of a satellite into space was a provocative move by the North and could be a precursor to the regime eventually being able to fire "long-range ballistic missiles."

The Washington Post described the bill as:

"...a combination of direct, mandatory moves against money launderers, human rights abusers, weapons and raw materials traders and perpetrators of cyberattacks. It would also impose secondary sanctions against the outlets that support and finance North Korea's aggressive tactics."

As much a part of the story of increased sanctions is that two Republican legislators voted against it. With a vote of 408-2, only Republican U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie and Justin Amash voted against the measure.

Amash and Massie's nay votes represented a willingness to spurn party orthodoxy. For Amash, it comes at a time when he has faced criticism for opposing, also practically alone, federal relief aid to Flint, Michigan over the city's contaminated water scandal.

On Twitter, Amash said he opposed the bill because its confiscatory nature:


According to a report on Nasdaq.com, Massie explained that his reason for voting against the bill was because it expands the authority of the president and further legitimizes the United Nations.

The sanctions bill also comes at a time when the U.S. is temporarily deploying an additional Patriot missile battery to South Korea. A general explained that the missile battery was necessary because, "North Korea's continued development of ballistic missiles against the expressed will of the international community requires the alliance to maintain effective and ready ballistic missile defenses."

The lone dissents from Thomas Massie and Justin Amash are hardly new, as the duo frequently provide the only negative votes on legislation that often has broad bipartisan support. Their move mirrors some of the lone votes frequently cast by retired U.S. Rep. Ron Paul during his 20-year congressional career.