FederalTexas Sen. Ted Cruz Stops Blockade on 32 Biden Nominees for Vote on Russian Pipeline Sanctions

The Texas Senator agreed to stop his blockade of 32 Biden nominations in exchange for a vote on sanctions of a Russian pipeline within a few weeks.
December 20, 2021
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lifted 32 of his holds on State Department nominations over the weekend in exchange for a promised vote on sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The vote is expected to come sometime before January 14, 2022.

“When the Senate reconvenes, we’ll finally have a vote on sanctioning Putin’s pipeline,” tweeted Cruz. “And if senators value national security & are willing to stand up to Putin, we should vote overwhelmingly to sanction NordStream2.”

Individual members in the U.S. Senate can stymie the confirmation process through the informal mechanism of nomination holds, which are often used as leverage for other things.

In this case, Cruz has blocked expedited confirmations for numerous positions over the past several months in a battle with the White House over the Biden administration’s lack of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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Citing “the President’s pledge to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in May that the State Department was waiving congressionally-enacted sanctions on the Russian pipeline.

The change in policy was largely to the benefit of Russia and Germany, while critics including Cruz say that the completion of the pipeline will give Russian President Vladimir Putin more leverage over Ukraine — which mounting Russian forces now surround.

In the same announcement, Blinken said that the administration will “continue to oppose the completion of this project,” and the White House also attempted to deflect blame for the pipeline’s construction by noting that the project is already near completion.

Amid the administration’s concessions to Russia, Cruz threatened on the Senate floor in August that he would “place holds on these [State Department] nominees unless and until the Biden administration follows the law and stops this pipeline and imposes the sanctions.”

Cruz followed through with his threat and kept holds on a large slate of nominees.

The issue was a focal point as Congress debated the annual defense bill that is used to fund the military and pass other laws related to military and defense policy.

Cruz and several other lawmakers pushed for an amendment to the legislation that would reimpose sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the pipeline.

Allegedly at the White House’s request, the Democratic leadership in both chambers struck the sanctions from the hefty bill.

The Texas senator was reportedly willing to lift some of his holds if the amendment had been voted on by the upper chamber, but it never was.

Cruz ultimately voted in favor of the bill, but criticized its lack of sanctions, saying, “[N]ot including sanctions on Nord Stream 2 means we are even closer to missing what could be our last opportunity to stop yet another Biden foreign policy catastrophe, thereby giving Putin a green light to devastate Ukraine.”

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sought to have more nominations approved ahead of lawmakers leaving for Christmas, Cruz reportedly struck a late-night deal with the Democrats to release 32 of his holds in exchange for a vote to reimpose sanctions within a few weeks.

On Saturday morning, the Senate confirmed dozens of Biden’s nominations including over 30 ambassadors.

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Daniel Friend

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.