The legislation needed 60 votes to move forward. Most Democrats voted against the legislation, but some voted in favor: Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) — several of whom are in competitive Senate races this year.
On the Republican side, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) joined Democrats to vote against the bill, criticizing the proposal as “more about mercantilism and protectionism than national security.”
Though it failed passage, Cruz touted the support from several Democrats as a victory against efforts from the White House to sway all Democrats to support their position.
“Despite furious White House lobbying, a large bipartisan majority of senators (55-44) once again voted for immediate sanctions on Putin’s pipeline,” said Cruz in a press release.
“President Biden should listen to the Senate and to the people and government of Ukraine, and reverse his catastrophic decision to grant Russia waivers from congressionally mandated sanctions. Only immediately imposing sanctions can change Putin’s calculation, stop a Ukrainian invasion, and lift the existential threat posed by Nord Stream 2.”
The failure of the measure is a success for Russia and Germany, which both advocate the pipeline, as well as the Biden administration, which waived previous sanctions on the project in an attempt “to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
But the lack of sanctions is a loss for Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had urged senators to vote for the bill.
Opponents of the pipeline contend that Nord Stream 2 will strengthen Russia’s grasp over Ukraine, as European countries that previously relied on oil flowing through the former Soviet state will be less affected by tense Russo-Ukrainian relations.
With a new pipeline in place, Russia could potentially avoid breaking its energy supply to the rest of Europe while cutting off Ukraine’s gas supply ahead of an invasion — a concern that has mounted with the number of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine.
Financial interests are also at play, as less oil flowing through Ukraine means that the country will likewise see a drop in revenue.
In December, Cruz agreed to end his blockade of Biden nominees in exchange for a vote on his proposed measure.
Though the pipeline was reportedly completed in September and is now pending regulatory approval in Germany, Cruz’s legislation would have required the president to implement sanctions within 15 days against “any corporate officer of an entity responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline or a successor entity.”
Ahead of the vote on Thursday, State Department officials in the Biden administration were reportedly sent to the Capitol to lobby Democrats to vote against Cruz’s bill.
In contrast to Cruz’s legislation, the White House has reportedly thrown its weight behind legislation from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that would require Nord Stream 2 sanctions only if the president determines that Russia has escalated hostilities against Ukraine since December 1, 2021.
But Cruz argues that waiting to impose sanctions until Russia has escalated tensions by invading Ukraine would be too late.
“In what universe will the Biden White House or the German government have greater resolve once millions of Germans are dependent on Russian natural gas from Nord Stream 2 to heat their homes, when it is literally stopping the Germans from freezing to death?” said Cruz in a Senate floor speech on Thursday before the vote.
“The debate before this chamber is, do we impose sanctions before an invasion in order to stop the invasion, or do we threaten sanctions after an invasion is done? The bill that my colleague, Senator Menendez, is pushing [. . .] would do the latter. It would impose sanctions after an invasion is complete.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.