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Senate Democrats in tough races challenge Biden on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

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Senate Democrats in tough races challenge Biden on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

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Vulnerable Senate Democrats broke with the White House by voting to restore Trump-era sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a sign that President Biden’s decision to pave the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pet project could be a political liability for his party in November. .

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a bill introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, that would restore immediate sanctions against entities associated with the pipeline, even though six Democrats crossed party lines, four of whom face challenges. tough mid-term electoral battles.

Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Raphael Warnock of Georgia joined Republicans in supporting Bill Cruz, all of whom are defending their seats in November.

Senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, who represent battleground states, were also lining up with Republicans. Both Democrats are re-elected in 2024.

Larry Behrens, Western states director of the pro-energy group Power the Future, said Friday the Democratic defections show the administration’s decision in May to lift U.S. sanctions on the nearly completed pipeline backfired politically. .

“Clearly the Biden administration put a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to vote for Putin’s pipeline, so this indicates that those soon to face voters were most likely to ignore the White House,” Behrens said.

Republicans and energy groups have blasted the administration’s Nord Stream 2 waiver, contrasting it with Biden’s decision on his first day in office to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried Canadian crude oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

“Standing up to our adversaries, protecting our friends and promoting American energy should be the easiest vote in Washington,” Behrens said. “Yet it appears the Biden administration has decided to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its Keystone Pipeline being canceled by fighting hard for a pipeline for Russia and getting its enablers in the Senate to follow suit.”

The Democratic aisle crossing also failed to avoid criticism from the Republican National Senate Committee, which tore Democrats apart in a post featuring photos of Ms. Cortez Masto, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Warnock, Ms. Hassan and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is also up for re-election in November.

“The The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is an unprecedented geopolitical issue and once again Vladimir Putin is poised to emerge victorious thanks to the weakness of Senate Democrats and the Biden administration,” the NRSC spokesperson said. , T. W. Arrighi.

Ms Hassan said on Friday she supported “the adoption of strong measures, including significant sanctions”.

“We must make it clear to the Kremlin that we are serious about countering Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and that we will help our partners in the region,” she said in a statement. “The bill we voted on this week was one way to do that, and I am open to working with both parties to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from coming online.”

Senate Democrats have touted an alternative bill introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey to reimpose sanctions if Russia decides to invade Ukraine.

“It’s not a question of whether to shut down the pipeline – it’s clear and agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans. The question is how,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire. “The legislation Democrats are proposing covers the full scope of the threat we face and the punitive response that is needed to swiftly punish Putin if he continues to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Germany has backed the 750-mile pipeline as vital to its industrial sector, while the Ukrainian government has urged the Senate to pass the Cruz bill, calling the project “no less an existential threat to our security” than the Russian troops massed on the border.

Ms Rosen said she supported the Cruz bill “because we cannot allow the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to go ahead”.

“The commissioning of this pipeline strengthens the hand of Vladimir Putin and endangers the security of Ukraine, and with 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, we must now resist Russian aggression,” he said. she declared. “Senator Menendez’s sanctions bill that I co-sponsored should also be voted on by the Senate so that Vladimir Putin knows that invading our ally Ukraine will have serious consequences.”

Mr. Cruz, who got a floor vote in exchange for lifting his blocks on several State Department nominees, argued that it would be too late to impose sanctions after a Russian invasion.

“And I would say if Joe Biden weren’t president, if Donald Trump was sitting in the Oval Office today, every Democrat in that chamber would be voting for these sanctions. All,” he said. “Like they did twice when Donald Trump was sitting in the Oval Office.”

Mr. Cruz said that “the other thing that has changed, by the way, is the Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. This is exactly what Ukrainians and Poles told us would happen when Biden waives those sanctions.

The vote against the bill was 55-44. The only Republican to vote against the Cruz bill was Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has long criticized the sanctions as ineffective and counterproductive.

Joseph Clark contributed to this story.

Senate Democrats in tough races challenge Biden on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

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