The Biden administration is weighing in on the late. Ted Cruz’s bill to reintroduce sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2.
Several Democrats remained on the fence earlier this week, leading to a briefing by administration officials late Monday in an attempt to return to support for the bill, which they say could put U.S. leverage in the middle of negotiations with Russia with high effort.
“If enacted, the legislation will only serve to undermine unity among our European allies at a crucial time when we have to present a united front in response to Russian threats against Ukraine,” a State Department spokesman told The Washington Times Tuesday.
Mr. Cruz, a Republican from Texas, prompted Senate Democratic leaders to schedule a vote on Jan. 14 on his sanctions bill in return for releasing dozens of Biden-appointed teams. The bill would restore sanctions, which Mr Biden withdrew from the almost operational submarine pipeline from Russia to Germany.
Critics argue that the natural gas pipeline will increase Moscow’s dominance over European energy markets and put Germany and other countries at risk of energy blackmail.
The Biden administration waived Trump-era sanctions against the pipeline in May. It argued that the sanctions would have little effect in slowing down the progress of the pipeline, which runs through the Baltic Sea.
Now that tensions between the United States and Russia are deteriorating day by day, the administration is using the threat of renewed sanctions on the pipeline as leverage to deter Russia from invading Ukraine.
Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and White House Energy Adviser Amos Hochstein met with 10 Democrats, who remained undecided ahead of the vote.
Late. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana who attended Monday’s briefing, said the administration claimed the sanctions could damage the U.S. position in ongoing negotiations with European partners on Russian aggression against Ukraine.
But Mr. Tester said immediately after the briefing that the administration “should do a better job of sending messages where the errors are” with Mr. Cruz’s bill.
Last Monday, Mr. Tests he was unsure how he would vote.
The administration is engaged in a series of discussions on European security this week, amid heightened tensions following Russia’s troop build-up on the border with Ukraine.
Other Democrats have raised questions about how sanctions could affect U.S. relations with Germany.
The administration said Mr Cruz’s bill “is not a genuine effort to counter further Russian aggression or protect Ukraine.”
“At this moment, it is crucial to ensure maximum transatlantic unity in relation to the potential Russian threat to Ukraine,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Russia will interpret any daylight in our positions stemming from sanctions against NS2 AG as an opportunity to exploit a rift in the transatlantic relationship.”
Mr. Cruz’s law must have 60 votes to be passed, and Republicans have said they are confident they can secure enough support to get it over the finish line.
Late. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was highly critical of the pipeline after the July deal was announced, but voting to undo Mr Biden’s move would be a much larger reprimand.
Mr. Menendez offered earlier legislation that would approve the sanctions – but only in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ultimatum is in line with Mr Biden’s position.
The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it is working with lawmakers “on a package of sanctions that maximize the potential costs to Russia if they further invade Ukraine, which [Mr. Cruz’s] legislation is not enough. “
Late. James E. Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the State Department, said the administration’s reluctance to take a firm stance on Nord Stream 2 is mystifying.
“This is a really frustrating question because pretty much every member of Congress wants to see the Nord Stream 2 project sanctioned and stopped,” said Mr. Risch. “The administration, for whatever reason, made the decision that they would do it.”
“They stopped a pipeline coming in from Canada,” he said. “Why would not you stop a pipeline that has national safety implications. That’s the frustrating part of this thing.”