Dec 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate cuts deal on Nord Stream 2 to end Cruz blockade of Biden's ambassador picks

Schumer and Cruz

From left, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appear on "Meet the Press" in January 2013. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Ted Cruz (R) cut a deal overnight to hold a vote on Nord Stream 2 sanctions next month in exchange for the Texas senator lifting his hold on more than three dozen of President Biden's ambassador picks.

Why it matters: Biden has fallen far behind his predecessors in the rate at which his ambassadorial and other high-level State Department picks have been confirmed, leaving gaping holes in critical foreign-policy and national-security roles.

  • Cruz lifted 32 of his holds in exchange for a vote before Jan. 14.

Catch up quick: Biden in May waived sanctions on the operator of Nord Stream 2 as a gesture of goodwill toward long-time U.S. ally Germany, which pledged to act if Russia used energy as a "weapon" to achieve its political goals.

  • But a growing bipartisan chorus of lawmakers on the hill have aggressively pushed for the U.S. to reimpose sanctions as Russia threatens Ukraine.

Driving the news: The Senate early Saturday confirmed 41 of President Biden's ambassadorial picks, breaking a logjam that critics have said posed a national security risk.

  • Cruz and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have slowed down the process by repeatedly objecting to the Senate moving forward via unanimous consent.

Details: The Senate early Saturday morning voted 48-21 to confirm Rahm Emanuel, the former lawmaker and chief of staff in the Obama White House, as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.

  • Eight Republicans crossed the aisle to back Emanuel, who was also mayor of Chicago, while three Democrats — Massachusetts Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley — voted against his confirmation.

The other ambassadors confirmed include former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell to represent the U.S. in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Mark Gitenstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Romania, to be the chief U.S. envoy to the European Union.

  • Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, the former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay under President Obama, was confirmed to represent the U.S. in Spain. Sen. Marco Rubio had placed a hold on the nominee, who has been serving as first lady Jill Biden's chief of staff, due to concerns over her approach to Cuba.
  • Denise Campbell Bauer, former ambassador to Belgium and executive director of Women for Biden, will become the chief envoy to France and Monaco. Meanwhile, Massachusetts state Rep. Claire Cronin, a Biden fundraiser, will become ambassador to Ireland.

Nominees were also confirmed to represent the United States in Argentina, Poland, Sweden, Somalia, Vietnam and elsewhere.

  • The Senate also confirmed John Bass, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Turkey, and Georgia, to become the undersecretary of state for management.
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