Cruz blocks Biden's State Department nominees ahead of Senate break

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China GOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' MORE (R-Texas) blocked the quick confirmation of dozens of State Department nominees on Wednesday morning, guaranteeing that they will stay in limbo until next month when the Senate returns from its summer break.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Spending bill faces Senate scramble MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFive things to know about Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine  Senate Democrat says he will 'settle' for less aggressive gun control reform 'because that will save lives' Ernst on Russian buildup on Ukraine border: 'We must prepare for the worst' MORE (D-Conn.) tried to get the nominations confirmed at the end of an all-night session before the Senate left Washington until mid-September.

In a floor back-and-forth that lasted roughly 50 minutes, and wrapped just before 6 a.m., Menendez and then Murphy went one by one through the list of State Department nominees trying to get consent to confirm them.

ADVERTISEMENT

Each time they were blocked by Cruz, though Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal MORE (R-Utah) also got in on the action and blocked one of the nearly 30 nominees: Brian Nichols's nomination to be an assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs.

"I know the hour is late, but we have nearly 30 highly qualified foreign affairs and development nominees who are languishing on the Senate floor. We have to confirm these nominees to fully equip the United States to pursue our foreign policy objectives," Menendez said as he kicked off the floor slog.

Cruz has been slow-walking the nominations until the Biden administration imposes congressionally mandated sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will allow Russia to deliver natural gas to Germany.

The Biden administration in May issued a sanctions waiver on one entity and three individuals related to the pipeline's construction, which is more than 90 percent complete.

"All of the senators in this chamber know precisely why these nominees have not moved forward, and the reason is because the Biden administration is currently engaged in open defiance of the United States Congress," Cruz said on Wednesday morning.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden tries to tamp down tensions with Putin call Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill Biden to speak Thursday with Ukrainian president after call with Putin MORE desperately wants the pipeline completed. If the pipeline is completed it will give billions of dollars to Putin to use for malign efforts in Europe and throughout the world," Cruz said, referring to Russia's president.

Cruz's actions don't prevent the Senate from eventually confirming the nominees, but Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBuild Back Better Is bad for the states  Dole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-N.Y.) will be required to eat up limited floor time in order to do so.

Cruz said on Wednesday morning that he would lift his block, and let the nominees be confirmed, if the Senate passed legislation imposing sanctions over the pipeline. But Menendez objected to Cruz's bill, noting it hadn't gone through the Foreign Relations Committee, and Cruz, in turn, kept blocking Menendez and Murphy from being able to confirm the nominees.

The State Department and Senate Democrats have called out Cruz for holding up the confirmation votes on key members of Biden’s national security team.

Murphy, on Wednesday, warned that Cruz's tactics could be replicated by Democrats under a GOP administration.

"This place just becomes unworkable if every single senator holds up this many nominees over one particular policy disagreement. And this tactic will be utilized by Democrats when there is a Republican in the White House," Murphy said.

In addition to the Nichols's nomination being blocked by Lee, Cruz blocked quick confirmation of nearly 30 nominees including six nominees to be assistant secretaries of State and several ambassador nominations.