More than 60 political appointees to positions in the State Department are being held up from taking their positions because Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R-Quintana Roo) is having a temper tantrum over a pipeline, CNN reports.
Cruz has blocked all but six State Department nominations from getting out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until, he says, the Biden Administration reimplements sanctions against Russian relating to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that goes to Germany. The Biden Administration has lifted sanctions against a number of Russian parties that helped build the pipeline, put in place toward the end of the Trump Administration after 95% of the pipeline had been built during the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration instead opted to sanction the individuals and companies that would benefit from the operation of the pipeline.
“I look forward to lifting the holds just as soon as they impose the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 that are required by federal law,” Cruz told CNN.
Cruz, of course, is wrong about federal law. Congress can only authorize the President to impose sanctions on foreign entities; it cannot levy sanctions itself because under the US Constitution, the President is responsible for foreign relations. After Congress authorizes sanctions on a foreign entity, the President may choose to implement sanctions, or lift all or parts of sanctions as seen fit for a foreign policy objective.
In his quixotic quest to demand changes to US foreign policy, Cruz has effectively blocked the pathway for key diplomats to take positions within the State Department, politicizing the filling of posts responsible for key world assignments like Cuba and Haiti, which are experience civilian unrest; southern Asia, where the US withdrawal of troops will lead to unrest; and Russia, a key adversary responsible for recent cyber attacks on US businesses.
“We want to have people — particularly in really hot spots, to deal with issues,” Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who’s the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CNN when asked if he was hopeful that more State Department nominees would get to the floor before senators leave for the August recess.