Democrats in the U.S. Senate have defeated a bill that would have slapped sanctions on businesses involved in the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), needed at least 60 votes to pass. It was defeated by a vote of 55-44 on January 13.
Lawmakers from both parties have opposed the pipeline, but Democrats said Cruz's bill would have harmed relations with Germany at a time when the U.S. is seeking to present a united front against Russia and its troop buildup near the border with Ukraine.
Cruz said the 55-44 vote showed a majority of senators support fast action on the pipeline.
"Only immediately imposing sanctions can change [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's calculation, stop a Ukrainian invasion, and lift the existential threat posed by Nord Stream 2," Cruz said.
Other Republicans accused Democrats of being timid in standing up to Putin.
Putin “can smell the weakness,” Senator John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming) said before the vote. “Stopping this pipeline should be an area of bipartisan agreement.”
The $11 billion undersea pipeline was completed in September but has not yet received regulatory approval from Germany.
Critics say Nord Stream 2 will increase Europe’s energy reliance on Russia, while enabling Moscow to reroute gas exports around Ukraine, depriving the country of billions of dollars a year in transit fees.
Democrats emphasized that much of the work on the pipeline was done under the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“This is the Trump-Putin pipeline,” said Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) and sponsor of a rival bill to impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine. That bill has yet to come up for a vote.