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 concerning 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 venture that the U.S. and bipartisan majorities oppose.
Regardless of their earlier help 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 might break the U.S. from its European companions at a time when unity is crucial to deter Russia, which has amassed hundreds of troops alongside the Ukrainian border.
Senate International Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) argued that sanctioning Nord Stream 2 instantly, as Cruz’s invoice requires, “may even be the excuse Putin is in search of” to invade Ukraine.
One other high Democrat mentioned Cruz’s invoice can be a “present” to Russia “as a result of it is a sign of division at a second after we want to be standing collectively.”
“This invoice isn’t going to assist Ukraine. It’s designed to damage the president of america,” mentioned Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a key White Home ally on the hassle. “A few of our Republican colleagues have constantly put their want to politically hurt President Biden forward of their want to defend the nation.”
However Republicans have been keen to have the battle with Biden, who waived congressionally necessary sanctions final yr on Nord Stream 2, drawing bipartisan rebukes. And GOP senators have been bolstered by public statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who got here out in help 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 going through 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’d recommend, if Joe Biden weren’t president, if Donald Trump have been sitting within the Oval Workplace as we speak, each single Democrat on this chamber would vote for these sanctions,” Cruz mentioned. If Russia invades Ukraine, “the rationale can be that america 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 entire level,” Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell mentioned. He added that Democrats have been “extra involved about standing with Berlin than with Kyiv” — a reference to Germany’s long-standing help for the pipeline, which is able to present low cost vitality for the nation.
However 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 ultimate certification; the Biden administration persuaded Germany to provoke the pause, due to this fact 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 difficulty through the years, mentioned she opposed Cruz’s invoice as a result of the U.S. posture on sanctions ought to “replicate these modifications” in Germany’s place.
“It’s leverage that the West can use as Vladimir Putin is considering what he’s going to do with Ukraine,” Shaheen mentioned.
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 Chief Chuck Schumer and greater than three dozen Democrats, prescribes a set of harsh conditional sanctions, together with on Nord Stream 2, that might be triggered if Russia invades Ukraine.
Menendez has referred to the punishments outlined within the invoice as “the mom of all sanctions” and argued that it could protect Biden’s means to use the pipeline as leverage. However Republicans have asserted that the laws was solely launched to give Democrats political cowl for opposing fast sanctions on Nord Stream 2, as Cruz’s laws requires.
The trail ahead — on each the diplomatic talks in addition to the legislative response — is unclear. Democrats are hoping that Republicans can be keen to have interaction on Menendez’s invoice now that the Cruz effort failed. Certainly, some Republicans have expressed help 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 celebration can make use of to extract concessions from the bulk celebration or the manager department, and Cruz has not hesitated to maintain up dozens of Biden’s picks for important diplomatic posts.
Certainly, Cruz’s position within the saga has animated Democrats for months. The conservative flame-thrower, recognized for his hard-line views and relentless want to shake up the Senate, grew to become the face of Republicans’ post-Trump posture towards Russia. Democrats have additionally pointed to Cruz’s want to run for president once more in 2024, contending that he’s hijacking the Senate for his personal political ambitions.
“Throughout the entire Trump administration, Sen. Cruz didn’t maintain one nominee due to Nord Stream 2,” Shaheen mentioned on the Senate flooring.