Several Senate Democrats have quickly reversed their previous positions on whether to sanction the Russian-built Nord Stream 2 pipeline in light of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The Democratic lawmakers have backtracked in recent days as a floor vote on a sanctions bill forced by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz approaches. In December, Cruz, who has blocked several State Department and Treasury Department nominations over the issue, brokered a deal with Democrats to release nominees in exchange for a vote by Jan. 14 on his bill reimposing Trump-era sanctions on the Russia-to-Germany pipeline.
But the White House has scrambled to ensure Democrats who previously supported sanctions don’t vote in favor of Cruz’s bill, Politico reported. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the U.S. would waive sanctions placed on the pipeline in May.
“At this point it’s very important, as we’re looking at potential Russian action in Ukraine, for us to work very closely with our allies, and Germany is one of those very important allies,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Shaheen, though, has advocated for the sanctions proposed by Cruz and even co-sponsored a bill with the Texas Republican in 2019. After the bipartisan legislation, the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act, was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2019, Shaheen said Nord Stream 2 was “another means by which Russia can spread its malign influence by exploiting Europe’s energy dependence.”
On Monday, she said the bill was “ill-timed,” the WSJ reported.
At least eight other Democrats on the committee, including current Chairman Bob Menendez and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, joined Shaheen in supporting the bill which the panel passed in a 20-2 vote on July 31, 2019. The only members who voted against the bill in committee were Democratic Sen. Tom Udall and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, Reuters reported at the time.
Paul reiterated his opposition to economic sanctions on the pipeline, arguing such measures are often ineffective or counterproductive in an editorial Monday. In recent weeks, both Menendez and Murphy have also emerged as vocal opponents of Cruz’s attempt to reimpose sanctions.
“This is not good policy for the United States Senate to allow Ted Cruz to break us from our transatlantic partners in the middle of a delicate negotiation over the future of US-Russia, and Europe-Russia policy,” Murphy said, CNN reported.
Menendez proposed a competing bill that would only reimpose sanctions on the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine rather than immediately, according to CNN. The bill is expected to receive a vote before Cruz’s legislation.
“It’s a strong message to Putin — much better than the Cruz approach,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, signaling support for Menendez’s version.
Shaheen, Menendez and Murphy didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.