Dems shift gears on Russian pipeline, backing Biden against Cruz’s gambit

Absent a shock improvement, Cruz’s invoice is predicted to fall wanting the 60-vote threshold.

“At this level it’s crucial, as we’re taking a look at potential Russian motion in Ukraine, for us to work very carefully with our allies, and Germany is a kind of crucial allies. And so I believe the modification is ill-timed,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) stated of Cruz’s invoice. The German authorities has supported the pipeline’s development due to a budget power it could deliver into the nation, regardless of objections from the U.S. and different European allies.

Virtually each senator from each events has beforehand backed the sanctions outlined in Cruz’s laws. However given Biden’s determination final 12 months to waive the imposition of these sanctions, supporting Cruz’s effort would pit Democrats against Biden. The Texas Republican has already taken to bludgeoning Democrats for what he calls a “capitulation” on partisan grounds.


Shaheen, who has been a number one proponent of utilizing sanctions to close down Nord Stream 2, could possibly be a bellwether for Senate Democrats on the Cruz vote given her long-standing work on the problem. She opposed Biden’s determination final 12 months to waive sanctions on the pipeline and argued in a recent op-ed with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that the Biden administration “ought to severely rethink the imposition of sanctions” on Nord Stream 2.

Nonetheless, Cruz’s invoice, which requires sanctions to be imposed inside 15 days of being signed into regulation and permits Congress to vote to reinstate the penalties if the president waives them, provides Shaheen “critical reservations.” She is leaning against it.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a high Senate International Relations Committee member, stated he was working to attempt to defeat Cruz’s invoice, arguing that it could pull the U.S. away from its European allies at a time when unity is important to counter Russia’s aggressive conduct within the area.

“This isn’t about Russia. That is a few Cruz-Trump agenda to interrupt up the trans-Atlantic alliance. It is a second the place we must be in solidarity with the administration as they attempt to use a carrot-stick method with the Russians to stop an invasion,” Murphy stated in a short interview. “Sending a wedge into the trans-Atlantic relationship proper now wouldn’t be productive if our finish objective is to attempt to save Ukraine from an invasion.”

The pipeline, which is successfully full however awaiting certification, is now being utilized by the U.S. and its European companions — together with Germany — as leverage against Russia, warning that the pipeline gained’t turn out to be operational if Putin strikes on Ukraine.

“I’ve no misplaced love for Putin and Russia, however I don’t need to do something that’s going to harm our safety,” stated Sen. Dick Durbin (D-In poor health.), the Democratic whip.

Cruz is already rejecting Democrats’ arguments, contending that they’re solely concerned about giving Biden political cowl.

“The one conceivable motive they may vote no is that if they make the cynical determination to place partisan loyalty above U.S. nationwide safety pursuits,” Cruz stated in an interview. “The one downside with the laws is the president is a Democrat. All of them voted for it when the president was Trump. If the president was nonetheless Trump, each single Democrat would vote for it.”

Cruz secured the vote as a part of a negotiation with Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer final month, during which the Texas Republican lifted his holds on dozens of Biden’s nominees to function U.S. ambassadors. Cruz has imposed blanket holds on State Division nominees in an effort to drive the Biden administration to impose the sanctions, which had been obligatory underneath earlier bipartisan payments authorised by Congress.

The vote, anticipated to happen subsequent week, will likely be politically powerful for Democrats given their earlier help for related sanctions measures. It’s made much more sophisticated by Biden’s refusal to impose these sanctions final 12 months, as a substitute waiving them in an effort to restore the U.S.-Germany relationship.

“Tough or not, we’re gonna should take the vote,” stated Senate Armed Providers Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who’s undecided on Cruz’s invoice. “And it’s going to be primarily based upon our greatest judgment about what’s in the most effective curiosity of the US.”


Different Democrats, corresponding to Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, a high International Relations Committee member, stated Cruz’s invoice has some provisions “that give me concern,” however declined to elaborate. He’s undecided.

And Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a high Biden ally, stated he wouldn’t decide on the laws till listening to from senior administration officers about “the place we stand in our relationship with the brand new German authorities, and what influence there is perhaps on our collectively standing sturdy in help of Ukraine and in opposition to Putin’s aggression.”

“I believe it’s an vital vote for us to take,” Coons stated. “Circumstances on the bottom proceed to evolve. I don’t know the administration’s place. I anticipate it could be opposed.”

The deal clinched by Cruz and Schumer final month permits an up-or-down vote on Cruz’s laws at a 60-vote threshold, that means at the least 10 Democrats might want to help it in an effort to move.

Some lawmakers have steered Schumer may give senators political cowl through the use of a “side-by-side,” during which senators may select whether or not to vote for Cruz’s invoice or a separate measure that is perhaps extra amenable to Democrats. That might embrace Senate International Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) laws to impose sanctions and different penalties solely after a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Only one Democrat who spoke to POLITICO on Wednesday pledged help for Nord Stream 2 sanctions. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) stated he would vote for whichever sanctions plan is obtainable. “There’s clearly a proper factor to do right here, so for me it’s not a tough vote,” he stated.

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s need to make use of the pipeline as leverage over Putin to dissuade him from invading Ukraine.

“It’s very arduous for us to see gasoline flowing by means of that pipeline … if Russia resumes its aggression towards Ukraine,” Blinken stated, including that “sturdy transatlantic solidarity” is “the simplest device that now we have in countering Russian aggression.”

Quint Forgey contributed to this report.

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