U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to the Senate floor this week to prevent an effort by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to circumvent floor debate on one of President Biden’s State Department nominees. Sen. Cruz announced weeks into the Biden administration’s term that he would use his full range of Senate prerogatives to pressure the Biden administration to impose Congressionally-mandated sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. He also did not object to confirmation of two other nominees he had formally held, saying they might be able to help “clean the mess that the Biden administration has made in Afghanistan.” Read excerpts of his floor remarks below.

Upon releasing his hold on Donald Lu to be Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian affairs, Sen. Cruz said:

“The reality is that had these nominees been confirmed in August, they would have done nothing to stop the administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Biden bears responsibility for the catastrophe that has unfolded in Afghanistan. President Biden repeatedly ignored reasonable advice and the intelligence on what was happening on the ground in the run up to the disastrous withdrawal. He abandoned the Bagram Airfield well before August, setting the stage for the chaos at the Kabul airport. He wasn’t even listening to his staff on what needed to be done on Afghanistan. Instead, he imposed an arbitrary deadline for political purposes with disastrous results. I’m not going to object to consent on this individual Mr. Lew and Mr. Holmgren in a moment that Senator Menendez will ask for. But let’s be clear, the administration is trying to play a blame game to deflect blame for their absolute failure to conduct a reasonable and rational drawdown.”

[…]

“None of the nominees I have holds on would have made one difference in what happened in Afghanistan. It’s difficult to believe that even my Democratic colleagues believe, political talking points notwithstanding, how, for instance, the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs could have stopped President Biden from gift wrapping Bagram Airfield and giving it to the Taliban.”

[…]

“Because this nominee and the next one are directly relevant to cleaning up the mess that the Biden administration has made in Afghanistan, I do not object.”

Upon releasing his hold on Brett Holmgren to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, Sen. Cruz said:

“Reserving the right to object for the same reasons I just articulated that this position, as with the previous one, is directly related to trying to clean up the mess, the disaster the Biden administration has created in Afghanistan. I intend not to object to this nomination; the remaining holds remain in place. And the administration can lift the Treasury holds and the career state holds anytime they want, by following the law under CAATSA and either imposing sanctions, or if they don’t want to impose sanctions on Russia, triggering a vote in Congress so that this body can decide whether or not sanction should be imposed on Russia. The administration has had that option in front of it for many weeks. It still has that option. I do not object.”

Upon objecting to Marcela Escobari to be head of the Bureau of Latin American and the Caribbean at the United States Agency for International Development, Sen. Cruz said:

“The Biden administration is in outright defiance of federal law. An overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate and the House had passed tough sanctions on Russia sanctions that work, sanctions that shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for a year. But when President Biden came into office, he chose to override federal law instead to give a multibillion-dollar gift to Vladimir Putin and Russia. That decision is a generational geopolitical mistake. It harms U.S. national security interests, it benefits Russia, and it hurts Europe. Moreover, my holds on these nominations, I have expressed to the administration in writing and orally over a month ago, they have a path to lifting the holds on the Treasury Department nominees and the career State Department nominees simply by either enforcing sanctions under CAATSA on Russia, or overriding those sanctions and triggering a vote in this body where members of this body can register our views on whether Joe Biden is correct in giving this multibillion-dollar gift of Vladimir Putin that undermines our national security. Accordingly, I object.”

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