Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio pause campaigns to vote on North Korea sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he watches a long range rocket launch in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 7, 2016.


Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio paused their presidential campaigns Wednesday to help the Senate unanimously pass new sanctions against North Korea for pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

The sanctions, passed by a vote of 96 to 0, specifically target North Korea's ability to finance the development of miniaturized nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. The House passed sanctions on North Korea last month, so the two bills must now be reconciled.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for president, stayed on the campaign trail and said in a statement that he was "necessarily absent" for the vote. However, the lengthy statement voiced his strong support for the sanctions.

"The totalitarian state of North Korea is becoming more belligerent by the day," Sanders said referencing North Korea's launch last week of a rocket carrying a satellite into space.

"These sanctions are an important tool in resolving the growing threat from Pyongyang," he continued. "The legislation before the Senate would help prevent North Korea from obtaining goods or technology related to nuclear weapons, ban foreign assistance to any country that provides lethal military equipment to North Korea, and target the country's trade in key industrial commodities."

While Cruz was in town for the vote, he also sent President Obama a letter expressing concerns about the administration's approach to North Korea. He also suggested alternative policy actions, such as building up the U.S. Navy and deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit to better protect U.S. troops and critical targets in South Korea.

"Your administration has, for too long, hoped to achieve denuclearization through failed diplomacy and limited sanctions," Cruz wrote.