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U.S. Senate To Vote On Republican-Backed Nord Stream 2 Sanctions Bill; Democrats Propose Rival Legislation

Workers celebrate after finishing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
Workers celebrate after finishing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote this week on a bill sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) to slap sanctions on the operators of the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline in Europe.

Cruz struck a deal with Democrats last month to get a vote on the sanctions bill by January 14 in exchange for lifting his hold on dozens of President Joe Biden's ambassadorial nominations. Senator Jon Ossoff (Democrat-Georgia) said the vote would take place on January 13.

Senate Democrats on January 12 unveiled rival legislation to impose sweeping sanctions on Russian government and military officials and key banking institutions if Moscow "escalates hostile action in or against Ukraine."

The Democrats' bill would sanction Russia, including top Russian government and military officials and key banking institutions, if Moscow invades Ukraine. It also would expedite security assistance to Ukraine and bolster its defenses.

Cruz's bill, which would need 60 votes to pass under the terms of the deal struck with Democrats, is not expected to garner enough support to advance. And if it passed, its prospects in the House of Representatives are uncertain.

The senator has said sanctions are needed immediately to stop the project. His bill would slap sanctions on the pipeline within 15 days of passage and would impose sanctions regardless of whether Russia invades Ukraine and allow Congress to reinstate the sanctions should the president waive them.

The $11 billion undersea pipeline, controlled by Russia's state gas company Gazprom, was completed in September after years of controversy but has not yet received regulatory approval from Germany.

The Baltic Sea pipeline is set to double Russian gas supplies to Germany, which the EU's biggest economy says is needed to help it transition away from coal and nuclear energy.

But critics say Nord Stream 2 will increase the EU’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.

Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) on January 12 proposed the rival bill, which provides an alternative for Democrats who support sanctions on Nord Stream 2.

"This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the U.S. Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Menendez's bill also would seek public disclosure of assets held by President Vladimir Putin and his family in and outside Russia. It also would seek an estimate of the total annual income and personal expenditures of Putin and his family members from 2017-21.

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said Cruz's bill to impose new sanctions over Nord Stream 2 regardless of whether Russia invades Ukraine removes the leverage that the threat of sanctions provides.

“We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, just like President Biden and our allies and partners have made clear we will do,” Horne said.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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