Cruz’n for a Bruisin: GOP Senator Releases Hold on Biden Nominees for Nord Stream 2 Sanctions Vote

© Photo : Nord Stream 2/SWP Studie S21 (2016); ENTSO-G, Capacity Map (2017)Map of the European natural gas pipeline network. Source - DIW 2018, based on Kai-Olaf Lang and Kirsten Westphal, “Nord Stream 2
Map of the European natural gas pipeline network. Source - DIW 2018, based on Kai-Olaf Lang and Kirsten Westphal, “Nord Stream 2 - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.12.2021
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Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent months blocking the Senate confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominees for important diplomatic postings over the administration’s decision to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2. The hawkish lawmaker claims the project’s completion will give President Putin “a stranglehold over Europe’s gas supplies.”
Senator Ted Cruz has clinched a deal with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to lift a hold on the confirmation of 32 Biden diplomatic nominees in exchange for a vote next month on his proposed sanctions legislation against Nord Stream 2, Politico reports, citing two people said to be familiar with the agreement.
The deal, said to have been clinched early Saturday, comes after months of wrangling between Democrats and the Texas Republican over US ambassadorships and other senior federal government appointments, whose confirmation Cruz has deliberately slow-walked.
The Biden administration has faced one of the most abysmal Senate confirmation rates in US history, with over 50 top diplomats and national security officials blocked by Republicans nearly a year into the Democratic president’s term.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Senate to “act” urgently to confirm Biden’s ambassadors “for the sake of our national security.” Up to that point, he said, only 16 percent of US ambassadorships had been filled, compared with 70-90 percent in the last three administrations.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on the Biden administration's Indo-Pacific strategy at the Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia December 14, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.12.2021
Blinken Urges Senate to Act to Confirm Biden's Nominees 'For the Sake of Our National Security'
“And virtually every challenge we face, including dealing with Russia, with China, with non-state factors, we’re hampered by the fact that we don’t have our full national security and foreign policy team on the field,” Blinken complained.

The Senate is expected to vote on Cruz’s sanctions sometime before 14 January. The senator has promised that even more holds on nominees would be lifted if the bill passes the Senate, the House and is signed by the president.

Cruz and other Republicans had sought to include the new Nord Stream 2 sanctions into the must-pass National Defence Authorization Act bill – the $770 billion military budget bill passed by the Congress on Wednesday and heading to the president’s desk for signature. The sanctions were cut from the bill last week after Cruz and Schumer reached a separate deal to stop holding up the confirmation of seven more diplomatic appointments.
FILE PHOTO: Workers are seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the town of Kingisepp, Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.12.2021
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Proposed US Defense Spending Bill Does Not Include Nord Stream 2 Sanctions
In a statement early Saturday, Schumer announced that agreement with Cruz and the Republicans had allowed the Senate to confirm 41 ambassadors, plus nine judicial nominees, two circuit judges and five other officials. “It’s been a long day but a good day’s work. I think my colleagues,” the majority leader said.
Cruz is leading the GOP charge in trying to stop Nord Stream 2 from coming online, issuing a statement last month saying that there was still time to do so despite the pipeline’s completion as it awaits certification. The Texas senator proposes rescinding the sanctions waiver against Nord Stream 2 AG – the pipeline’s operator, and argues the need to threaten “any entity participating in certifying the pipeline” with “the full force of crippling American sanctions.”
In July, in a bid to improve relations with the US’s German allies post-Trump, President Biden and then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached an agreement committing the US to drop its sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, on the condition that Russia does not us the pipeline as an ‘energy weapon’. Berlin considers Nord Stream 2 as a major guarantee of its energy security and a strictly economic, non-political project.
Once commissioned, the pipeline will be able to pump up to 55 billion cubic meters per year of gas from Russia to northeastern Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, doubling the capacity of the existing Nord Stream network.
A worker inspects parts of the largest gas storage facility of Western Europe in Rehden, northern Germany - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.12.2021
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