The Senate was poised Thursday to reject a Republican bill that would have imposed new sanctions on the Russian-owned company behind the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last year, failed to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold. The final tally had not yet been called as of Thursday evening.
Six Democratic senators – Mark Kelly of Arizona, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Mastro of Nevada – voted to support the legislation.
Sens. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) switched their votes from “aye” to “no” while the roll call was in progress.
Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to vote “no.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) was not present to vote due to a recent COVID-19 diagnosis.
Cruz urged his Democratic colleagues to support the measure prior to the vote, noting that it was similar to a separate sanctions bill introduced Wednesday by Democrats and had the support of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The eyes of history are on the Senate,” Cruz said. “There are moments, particularly dealing with war and peace, where the consequences of our actions echo throughout the decades. This moment is one of them.”
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is completed but not yet operational, bypasses existing fuel transit routes through Ukraine, denying the Kiev government of lucrative fees. Foreign policy experts warn the pipeline would make Europe more dependent on Russian energy to heat their homes and businesses.
Meanwhile, roughly 100,000 Russian forces have amassed at the border with Ukraine, leading many to fear an invasion.
While President Biden has vowed to impose “severe” economic sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow goes ahead with military action, the White House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly criticized Cruz’s bill.
The proposal would have put sanctions in place 15 days after approval, regardless of whether Russia invades Ukraine. The legislation would have also imposed sanctions on top Russian military and government leaders, including Putin, as well as financial institutions. Companies that provide secure messaging systems would also be hit.
A State Department spokesperson told The Post on Wednesday that the Republican proposal “will undermine our efforts to deter Russia and remove leverage the United States and our allies and partners possess in this moment all to score political points at home. And it would come at a moment where we need to be closely united with our European partners, including Germany. It makes no sense.”
On Thursday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spoke against Cruz in favor of his own sanctions legislation, which only puts sanctions in place if Moscow invades Ukraine.
“We are voting on whether to sanction Nord Stream 2, as if that alone would deter Putin from reinvading,” Menendez said. “Sanctioning Nord Stream 2 now, at this pivotal moment, would have the opposite effect of deterring Putin. It might even be the excuse Putin is looking for.”
“Senator Cruz wants to stop the pipeline. So do I,” Menendez added. “But it is far from clear that sanctions at this point, when the pipeline is already built, will do just that.”
The White House supports Menendez’s bill, according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council who said it would “trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy” if Moscow chooses to attack.