Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have reportedly found a rare area of common ground: their fury at Senator Ted Cruz.
According to CNN, senators of both parties blame Mr Cruz for holding up the confirmation of all pending State Department nominees, some of whom are needed in crucial areas of US diplomacy.
Mr Cruz is blocking the nominees over a specific foreign policy issue: a Russian gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2. American officials have long seen the pipeline as a problem, but both the Trump and Biden administrations declined to impose sanctions on it. Mr Cruz wants that to change.
“I’m leveraging & holding the Biden administration’s nominees to get the admin to impose sanctions mandated by Congress to stop Biden’s multi-billion dollar gift to Putin,” the Texas senator tweeted earlier this month.
According to CNN, unnamed lawmakers of both parties say the pressure campaign is pointless, because the Biden administration has made it clear it won’t change its policy. Although administration officials believe the pipeline could give Russia too much power over Europe’s energy, they also recognize that at this point its construction is almost finished – and, perhaps more importantly, fighting it could antagonize Germany.
Meanwhile, Mr Cruz’s antics have led to heated confrontations with Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has been struggling to confirm the nominees.
“Senator Cruz, this committee has had a long history which you are blackening,” Mr Menendez said last month, “by virtue of turning the committee’s business for a political purpose.”
“What political purpose is that?” Mr Cruz shot back.
“Maybe it’s your political aspirations, I don’t know,” the chair replied. “You held over every nominee! Every nominee! I’ve never seen that.”
Four weeks later, about 60 diplomatic posts are still waiting to be filled. Biden administration officials have fumed over the deadlock, pointing out that most of the nominees have wide bipartisan support.
“It is critical for our national security and foreign policy that the Senate move forward with these qualified, experienced nominees as quickly as possible,” a senior White House official told CNN.
State Department officials have said they are working with Mr Cruz to find a way out of the impasse, but have made little headway.
“We’re in regular contact with Senator Cruz to try to get him to negotiate a way out of this blanket hold and so far we have not made any progress with him,” an anonymous State Department official told The Hill.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Cruz’s office for comment, but has not yet heard back.
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