For months, Cruz has been holding up dozens of State Department nominations as leverage to get the Biden administration to reinstate sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It’s an unprecedented level of obstruction, affecting nearly 80 diplomatic posts.
To be clear: Cruz’s actions have nothing to do with the nominees or their qualifications. The nominations simply appear to be the only lever Cruz can think of, so he’s pulling it.
This is not a minor hiccup. Without those emissaries on watch, the world is less accountable to U.S. interests. This newspaper’s reporting of Cruz’s “tantrum,” as it was characterized by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro last week, has drawn a sobering comparison, just days after our nation’s observance of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission formed to investigate those attacks identified unfilled diplomatic posts as a dangerous vulnerability at the time. Eight months into his term, 57% of President George W. Bush’s nominees for key national security posts had been confirmed. At the same point in his tenure, Biden has just 26%, we reported.
“It is scandalous that these nominees and many others are being held up for reasons completely unrelated to them and the positions they will hold,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. “Such irresponsible behavior jeopardizes our national security.”
Cruz is understandably frustrated with the Biden administration. In passing the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019, Congress stipulated sanctions against Russia if they pressed construction of the pipeline. Biden dropped those sanctions, saying they weren’t working and the pipeline is all but operational.
There is speculation that Cruz wants to show Biden is weak on Russia in advance of his own presidential run in 2024. And at times, we’ve seen Cruz’s libertarian tendencies lead him to find validation in an inept government rather than work toward a better one.
But those factors aside, Cruz is not wrong to be concerned here. A 2017 report from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy identified, “15 discrete instances where Russian entities used price and physical volume manipulation of crude oil or natural gas supplies — often amid political tensions — to pressure consumers located in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet countries.” The pipeline will connect to Germany, expanding Russia’s control over the European natural gas market. Biden needs to show that the U.S. will stand up to Russian aggression.
But blocking diplomatic confirmations is the most counterproductive and petulant way for Cruz to raise those concerns. A critical part of curtailing Russia’s malign activities will be working with our allies. That requires a functioning diplomatic corps, the very thing Cruz is kneecapping with this stunt. He should drop his objections immediately.
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