“When we impose sanctions, we need to make sure that the sanctions are focused on the problem and not the collateral,” Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Said in a brief interview, adding that the Biden government “must.” better communicate what the errors are, “said Cruz’s proposal.
But Tester, who said he was not sure yet whether he would support the sanctions law, said the government’s arguments were “very salient”. Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) is another objector who reiterated the White House’s view that US-European relations “deteriorated” under former President Donald Trump.
“Much of it has diplomatic implications,” said Manchin. “I want to hear both sides of the argument.”
The briefing was moderated by Victoria Nuland, State Secretary for Political Affairs, and Amos Hochstein, a top energy officer for the State Department. Both officials were instrumental in the government’s decision last year to lift congressional sanctions on the pipeline, which Biden has admitted will give Russian President Vladimir Putin new leverage over Europe.
The upcoming vote, which Cruz forced after blocking dozens of State Department candidates, will be a difficult one for the Democrats, who previously supported the sanctions provided for in Cruz’s law. Few, if any, Democrats defended the Biden government’s move last year to lift these sanctions.
The fight also leads Democrats against a key ally, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has called on the Senate to approve Cruz’s bill.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Who lobbies the Democrats against Cruz’s bill, criticized Zelenskyy in a brief interview on Monday.
“I am a great supporter of President Zelenskyi. But he often misinterprets American politics, ”Murphy said. “And I think it would have been better for him to stay out of this. It is not good US policy to allow Ted Cruz to part with our transatlantic partners in the midst of delicate negotiations on the future of Europe-Russia policy. “
“Remember, this is a German government that has just changed its position,” added Murphy, noting that the new German Chancellor has pledged to keep the pipeline offline while Russia threatens to invade Ukraine. “Why would you sanction Germany when you have just changed your position to the position we have assigned you?”
Democratic leaders are pushing for an alternative plan that would punish Russia in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. That plan is spearheaded by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (DN.J.), who is pushing for a separate vote on a sanctions package that would be more accessible to Democrats and help mitigate Republican criticism.
“My argument is that if you want to be successful that Russia does not invade, you have to draw the consequences first,” said Menendez.
Senate majority whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Called Cruz’s approach “weak” and said the Senate should vote on Menendez’s plan instead.
“[Cruz has] managed to force a vote on it by holding dozens of President Biden’s nominations hostage, “said Durbin. “This Cruz law is unlikely to deter a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Construction of the pipeline is complete but not yet operational, which Democrats believe gives the US and its European partners an important leverage over Putin as he weighs whether to invade Ukraine again.
Cruz has meanwhile accused the Democrats of resisting political pressure and “having made the cynical decision to put the partisan’s loyalty above US national security interests.”