Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) secured the vote in December after months of holding up affirmation of President Joe Biden’s ambassador nominees. It was a tactic that drew harsh criticisms from Democrats, who complained in regards to the Texas Republican’s blockade of foreign-policy nominees stemming from his push to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the Russia-to-Germany vitality undertaking that the U.S. and bipartisan majorities oppose.
Despite their earlier assist for sanctioning Nord Stream 2, most Democrats sided with the Biden administration in opposing Cruz’s laws, arguing it was a poorly-timed and politically motivated measure that will break the U.S. from its European companions at a time when unity is crucial to deter Russia, which has amassed 1000’s of troops alongside the Ukrainian border.
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) argued that sanctioning Nord Stream 2 instantly, as Cruz’s invoice requires, “might even be the excuse Putin is looking for” to invade Ukraine.
Another high Democrat stated Cruz’s invoice could be a “gift” to Russia “because it’s a signal of division at a moment when we need to be standing together.”
“This bill isn’t going to help Ukraine. It’s designed to hurt the president of the United States,” stated Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a key White House ally on the hassle. “Some of our Republican colleagues have consistently put their desire to politically harm President Biden ahead of their desire to protect the nation.”
But Republicans have been eager to have the fight with Biden, who waived congressionally obligatory sanctions final yr on Nord Stream 2, drawing bipartisan rebukes. And GOP senators had been bolstered by public statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who got here out in assist of Cruz’s invoice, in addition to the truth that practically all senators beforehand supported sanctioning the pipeline.
Of the six Democrats who backed Cruz’s invoice, 4 are dealing with tough reelection fights in November: Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona. Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin additionally backed the laws.
“I would suggest, if Joe Biden were not president, if Donald Trump were sitting in the Oval Office today, every single Democrat in this chamber would vote for these sanctions,” Cruz stated. If Russia invades Ukraine, “the reason will be that the United States Senate heard the pleas of our Ukrainian allies and we turned a deaf ear to them.”
Republicans additionally disputed Democrats’ argument that instantly sanctioning the nearly-completed pipeline would drive a wedge between the U.S. and European companions.
“The pipeline itself is the wedge. That’s the whole point,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated. He added that Democrats had been “more concerned about standing with Berlin than with Kyiv” — a reference to Germany’s long-standing assist for the pipeline, which is able to present low-cost vitality for the nation.
But the brand new German authorities has since softened that place, spurred by Russia’s threats to invade Ukraine. The pipeline is accomplished however not but operational because it awaits remaining certification; the Biden administration persuaded Germany to provoke the pause, subsequently permitting the U.S. and its allies to use the pipeline as leverage to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to again down.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), seen as a bellwether for Democrats given her work on the problem through the years, stated she opposed Cruz’s invoice as a result of the U.S. posture on sanctions ought to “reflect those changes” in Germany’s place.
“It’s leverage that the West can use as Vladimir Putin is thinking about what he’s going to do with Ukraine,” Shaheen stated.
Earlier this week, Democratic leaders unveiled a Russia sanctions invoice meant to be another to Cruz’s. The laws, led by Menendez and backed by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and greater than three dozen Democrats, prescribes a set of harsh conditional sanctions, together with on Nord Stream 2, that will be triggered if Russia invades Ukraine.
Menendez has referred to the punishments outlined within the invoice as “the mother of all sanctions” and argued that it will protect Biden’s capacity to use the pipeline as leverage. But Republicans have asserted that the laws was solely launched to give Democrats political cowl for opposing speedy sanctions on Nord Stream 2, as Cruz’s laws requires.
The path ahead — on each the diplomatic talks in addition to the legislative response — is unclear. Democrats are hoping that Republicans could be prepared to have interaction on Menendez’s invoice now that the Cruz effort failed. Indeed, some Republicans have expressed assist for it. And on Wednesday night time, Democratic leaders started the method to put the Menendez laws on the Senate’s calendar.
It’s additionally not clear whether or not Cruz, recent off his defeat, will proceed blocking swift affirmation of Biden’s foreign-policy nominees. The tactic is without doubt one of the few that senators from the minority social gathering can make use of to extract concessions from the bulk social gathering or the chief department, and Cruz has not hesitated to maintain up dozens of Biden’s picks for vital diplomatic posts.
Indeed, Cruz’s function within the saga has animated Democrats for months. The conservative flame-thrower, recognized for his hard-line views and relentless need to shake up the Senate, grew to become the face of Republicans’ post-Trump posture towards Russia. Democrats have additionally pointed to Cruz’s need to run for president once more in 2024, contending that he’s hijacking the Senate for his personal political ambitions.
“During all of the Trump administration, Sen. Cruz did not hold one nominee because of Nord Stream 2,” Shaheen stated on the Senate ground.