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Countering North Korean Aggression

News reports indicate that North Korea tested a nuclear weapon this week, its fifth nuclear weapons test overall and fourth since President Obama took office. North Korea’s reckless leader, Kim Jong Un, continues to test nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which poses a major threat to the United States and our allies around the world. North Korea's belligerent behavior must be stopped; it’s imperative we drastically increase sanctions enforcement that my North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act called for, including secondary sanctions against Chinese entities, additional sanctions on the regime’s human rights abuses, and cyber sanctions that the Obama Administration has still not imposed.

As North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile capabilities rapidly develop, we must work closely with our allies to counter this aggression by expediting the timeframe for the stationing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, and also enhance the trilateral alliance between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. President Obama should immediately convene a trilateral summit to discuss the urgency of the North Korean threat and agree on policies that will protect our nations and together effectively deter Pyongyang's aggression. While the Administration has finally recognized its policy of ‘strategic patience’ has failed, we must continue to ratchet up pressure on Kim Jong Un’s regime and pursue all available options to counter this growing aggression.

Holding the Administration Accountable for their Iran Ransom Payment

When the Obama Administration chose to deliver $400 million in an unmarked plane to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages, they put Americans around the world at risk. Now we’ve learned the Administration went even further and made two more payments totaling an additional $1.3 billion to the Mullahs. Although President Obama continues to deny this was a ransom payment, the American people know better. Earlier this week, I introduced the No Ransom Payments Act with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to ensure Iran receives no more money from the United States until the ransom payment is returned and American victims of Iranian terrorism are properly compensated. The Obama Administration has demonstrated time and time again that it is willing to do anything - including setting a dangerous precedent - to solidify its reckless nuclear deal with Iran. I will continue to hold the Administration accountable and press for the transparency Americans reserve.

Combating the Zika Virus

This week, I voted to approve more than $1 billion to combat the Zika virus. While a partisan minority continues to call for Zika funding in the press, they chose to block this measure from moving forward for the third time this year. It is a glaring example of the political machine at its worst: the very people who are demanding the passage of Zika funding are its only obstacle to approval. It is time to put politics aside and approve these critical funding packages.

I also sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the EPA’s continued collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to register various chemicals that could potentially serve as insect repellents and sprays used to fight the Zika virus. 

The EPA must evaluate all repellents and pesticides for safety and efficacy prior to public use. Many labs throughout the country are researching new compounds that have shown promise for controlling mosquitos. For example, the CDC lab in Fort Collins, CO has conducted research on Nootkatone, a natural chemical found in grapefruit, that has proven to be an effective repellent and insecticide against mosquitos carrying the Zika virus.

Prior to September, the Zika virus had infected more than 600 pregnant women in the United States, and there has been more recent evidence that the virus continues to be transmitted within our boarders. In addition to supporting the $1 billion in funding to address this public health emergency, I urge EPA to work expeditiously with the relevant agencies to strengthen protection against the Zika virus through the approval of safe, effective insect repellents.

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Cory Gardner

United States Senator