Jan. 13 (UPI) — Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a bill proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, seeking to sanction companies tied to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The measure failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to pass through the chamber with the vote held open at 55-43 as Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, had not yet voted.
Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Raphael Warnock of Georgia joined every Senate Republican in voting in favor of the bill.
The measure would require sanctions be imposed on businesses associated with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will carry gas from Russia to Germany, within 15 days.
Some Democrats voted against the bill as they accused Cruz of attempting to undermine President Joe Biden’s diplomatic efforts to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling on the Senate to pass the bill.
Biden in May waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the Russian-owned and Swiss-based company for the pipeline project as part of an agreement with Germany which the United States hopes to maintain as a close ally in a unified front against Russian aggression.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a call with reporters following the vote that he was glad the bill failed, saying it effectively sanctioned Germany and not Russia.
“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,” Murphy said on the Senate floor. “This would be a gift to Vladimir Putin because it’s a signal of division at a moment when we need to be standing together.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said the pipeline provided “leverage that the West can use at a pivotal moment.”
“We can’t look at this legislation in isolation,” Shaheen said. “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.”
Senate foreign relations committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., offered a separate bill backed by Schumer and the White House that would sanction Russia if it invades Ukraine.
“We must send an unequivocal message that, should Putin invade, the consequences would be devastating. That there would be steep costs to the economy and to the people of Russia if he further tramples on Ukraine’s territory and independence,” Menendez said on the floor. “But we are not voting on that comprehensive response. We are not voting on how severe the consequences should be if Putin goes down the path of invasion. Instead, we are voting on whether to sanction Nord Stream 2. As if that, alone would deter Putin from re-invading. As if that, alone, would stop him.”
Cruz on the Senate floor said his bill was the “best way to deter Putin from invading Ukraine” and added that “Ukraine risks getting wiped off the map” without it.
“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 said.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she supported Cruz’s bill because it would sanction Russia before a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We don’t want them to invade. Once they’ve invaded, that means lives have been lost. It’s a little too late,” she told Insider.