Dems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked legislation from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam MORE (R-Texas) to slap sanctions on businesses tied to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a win for the Biden administration, which believes such sanctions could damage relations with Germany.

Senators voted 55-44 on Cruz’s legislation, falling short of the 60 votes needed for it to pass. Democratic Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Dems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill MORE (Wis.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Dems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Vulnerable Senate Democrats see massive fundraising hauls in last quarter of 2021 MORE (Nev.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Dems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill MORE (N.H.), Mark KellyMark KellyMissouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill MORE (Ariz.), Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenEight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE (Nev.) and Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockPerdue proposes election police force in Georgia Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks MORE (Ga.) joined every Republican save Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulI'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Rand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) in voting for the bill.

The vote on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will carry gas from Russia to Germany, comes at a delicate moment for White House as it navigates renewed tensions with Moscow over its buildup of troops on the border with Ukraine.  

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Underscoring the dilemma for Democrats, many of whom previously voted for similar sanctions, senators stressed that they are alarmed about Russia and the pipeline, but that Cruz’s legislation isn’t the most effective response.  

“We can’t look at this legislation in isolation. This legislation … is coming at a time when the administration is exhausting every single diplomatic avenue to deter Putin from further violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” said Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India MORE (D-N.H.), adding that the pipeline is “leverage that the West can use at a pivotal moment.” 

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBiden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Senators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support MORE (D-Conn.) argued that the bill would be a “gift” for Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIran announces naval drills with Russia, China Blinken calls for 'global action' against Russia amid Ukraine tensions Putin's options extend well beyond invasion MORE by dividing the United States from Germany. 

“We need to be sending a message to Vladimir Putin that the United States and Europe are together and that we are going to deliver a crushing package of sanctions if you enter Ukraine any further,” he said.

The legislation from Cruz would require sanctions to be implemented within 15 days. In a red flag for Democrats, Congress would be able to force a vote on putting the sanctions back in place if President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE waived them.

Biden waived sanctions in May on Nord Stream 2 AG, the Russian-owned, Swiss-based company for the pipeline project, as part of an agreement published in July with Germany, which supports the pipeline. 

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Democrats and the Biden administration worked overtime to squash Cruz's effort.

Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of State for political affairs, briefed a group of potential swing vote senators this week as part of a meeting organized by Democratic senators who oppose Cruz’s legislation. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden clarifies any Russian movement into Ukraine 'is an invasion' Blinken calls for 'global action' against Russia amid Ukraine tensions MORE also briefed a bipartisan group on Ukraine, where senators are hoping to travel as soon as this weekend.  

The German government had also urged members of Congress to not slap sanctions on the pipeline, arguing that it would harm the Washington-Berlin relationship. 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine MORE (D-N.J.), backed by Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) and the White House, also offered competing legislation, giving Democrats worried about Ukraine an alternative bill to support.  

That legislation would slap new sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, though the Ukrainian government had been publicly pushing for senators to vote for Cruz’s bill.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a tweet, said that Ukraine “asks all its friends in the US Senate to vote for S. 3436."  

Cruz argued that Democrats faced a decision between backing the Biden administration despite their previous support of sanctions, or helping crackdown on a pipeline that has sparked bipartisan backlash at a key moment with Russia.  

During a floor speech, he argued that his bill was the “best way to deter Putin from invading Ukraine” and that without it, “Ukraine risks getting wiped off the map.”  

“The eyes of history are upon us today. Each of us will be faced with a momentous question: Can we put petty differences aside and can we come together to defend our friend and our ally Ukraine against imminent Russian aggression?” Cruz asked.

The vote on the pipeline comes after the Biden administration carried out three separate meetings with Russian officials in Europe this week to offset a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and outbreak of war. 

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border in what it calls a military exercise. Moscow has said it views Ukraine’s closer ties with the West and desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a threat to its security. 

Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has supported separatists against Kyiv in Ukraine’s east, called the Donbas region. 

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Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation to the three meetings, stressed unity among allies to respond to increased Russia’s aggression with financial sanctions, defensive military assistance to Ukraine and increased force posture in Europe. 

She echoed earlier statements by Blinken that Nord Stream 2, which has yet to become operational, provides an opportunity for Europe to exert pressure over Russia.  

“The pipeline is not operational right now. The Germans’ Federal Network Agency has suspended certification.  And Secretary Blinken has said... ‘From our perspective it’s very hard to see gas flowing through [the] pipeline for it to become operational if Russia renews its aggression on Ukraine.'” 

Berlin, addressing U.S. opposition to the pipeline and concern over Russia’s control, agreed to impose costs on Moscow should it find that the Kremlin is holding energy hostage to threaten Europe or taking aggressive actions against Ukraine. 

— Updated at 9:52.