Cruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees

The Senate will vote next month on legislation from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzProgressive millionaire group backs Cisneros, McBath in first public endorsements Manchin and Sinema must help Biden make the Supreme Court look more like America Flake meets with Erdoğan in first official duties as US ambassador MORE (R-Texas) to impose Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions as part of a deal that allowed Democrats to clear dozens of President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE's nominees. 

Under the agreement, locked in during a rare all-night session, the Senate will vote on Cruz's legislation on sanctions related to the construction of the pipeline, which allows Russia to deliver natural gas to Germany, by Jan. 14. It will need 60 votes to ultimately pass. 

The deal comes after days of negotiations between Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Schumer finds unity moment in Supreme Court fight Breyer retirement throws curveball into midterms MORE (D-N.Y.) that seemed to routinely yo-yo, even in the hours leading up to the agreement, from stalemate to progress and back again. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz put a wide-ranging hold on Biden's State and Treasury nominees earlier this year, vowing to maintain the blockade until the Biden administration imposes congressionally mandated sanctions on the pipeline. 

A hold by a senator doesn't prevent the nominees from being confirmed if they have the support of 50 senators, but it does require leadership to eat up floor time in order to get a final vote. 

Cruz, even while largely maintaining his holds, has also let some nominees be cleared easily, including former Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake meets with Erdoğan in first official duties as US ambassador Poll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats Cruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees MORE (R-Ariz.) and Tom UdallTom UdallCruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees Democrats threaten to play hardball over Cruz's blockade Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees MORE (D-N.M.), who were confirmed to be the ambassadors to Turkey and New Zealand, respectively.  

But the stalemate on dozens of Biden nominees, which frustrated Democrats, administration officials and even some Republicans, took on more urgency as the Senate headed toward the end of its work year. Absent an agreement with Republicans, Democrats would have to send nominees back to the White House at the end of the year and force Biden to renominate them. 

Schumer and Cruz had previously agreed on a vote on Nord Stream 2 sanctions as an amendment to a sweeping defense bill in exchange for Cruz dropping holds on seven ambassador nominees.  

ADVERTISEMENT

But that package of amendments was blocked by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Fla.), who wanted a vote on his proposal on banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where administration officials have accused the government of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims, or a vote in the House. A deal that Rubio struck with House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) ultimately passed this week. 

As part of the talks this week, Cruz initially offered to drop his holds on 16 State Department nominees, but Schumer and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down DC's Union Station defaced with swastika drawings Menendez goes after Sanders over SALT comments MORE (D-N.J.) said Cruz had to drop his holds on all of his Treasury, State and U.S. Agency for International Development nominees in order to get a vote. 

Even Friday evening, top Republicans accused Schumer of moving the goal posts, saying that he had asked for votes on roughly 35 nominees as part of the negotiations before going up to 42. 

"They just keep changing the game. ... Now they’ve completely changed the people on the list," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell aims to sidestep GOP drama over Trump There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. 

Asked as he went on the floor to vote if he felt talks were making progress, Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden's public moment of frustration Russia announces military exercises amid standoff with US, NATO over Ukraine Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time MORE (D-Del.) said, "Not that I can tell."

ADVERTISEMENT

But Schumer was able to clear a deal early Saturday morning that allowed the Senate to confirm 41 ambassadors, including former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, before they left as well as nine judicial nominees.

“At the end of the day, we will have invoked cloture on two circuit judges, confirmed nine district court judges, confirmed 41 ambassadors, and confirmed five other members of President Biden’s team,” Schumer said.   

“It’s been a long day but a good day’s work. I thank my colleagues,” he said.

The vote on Cruz's legislation could be a tough one for Democrats, some of whom have been critical of the pipeline. Senators, as part of the negotiations on the deal, had debated also having a vote on a competing proposal from Menendez and setting the thresholds for Cruz and Menendez at a simple majority. 

Instead, Senate Democrats ultimately agreed to a vote on Cruz's proposal but at a 60-vote threshold, meaning the Texas Republican will need to win over 10 Democratic senators to get his bill through the Senate. 

German officials and the Biden administration have urged Congress not to impose sanctions over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, warning that it would undermine the trans-Atlantic alliance. 

The administration imposed new sanctions last month on a ship involved in the construction of the gas pipeline, which is a top strategic priority of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUK prime minister to call Putin in attempt to stop Ukraine invasion Belarusian president vows war if Russia, Belarus attacked Biden says he'll send troops to Eastern Europe in 'near term' MORE.

Senate aides told The Hill during the debate over whether or not to give them a vote as part of the defense bill that Blinken was urging Democratic senators to block an amendment from by Sens. James Risch (Idaho), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Cruz to impose sanctions on the pipeline.