Debate over Russia’s Nord Stream 2 oil pipeline has complicated efforts to pass the National Defense Authorization Act after millions of dollars have been spent on federal lobbying opposing sanctions on the Russian pipeline.
Nord Stream 2 AG took center stage in the Senate negotiations after a vote to end debate on the NDAA funding bill failed on Monday with a vote of 45-51, short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward.
Senate Republicans voted to block the defense funding bill from advancing on Monday, arguing that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wasn’t giving them the chance to get votes on amendments, including a measure levying sanctions on Nord Stream 2.
The Russian oil pipeline would bypass Ukraine in Russian gas transit routes to Europe and is expected to double Russian gas exports to Germany. The move could potentially cost Ukrainian firms billions of dollars in transit revenue collected during the transfer of Russian natural gas and thereby weaken Ukraine’s strategic importance to the region.
The week before Thanksgiving, a deal to hold roll call votes on amendments fell apart after seven Republicans objected due to the exclusion of their proposals in the amendments.
Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) were among those Republicans, and called for a vote on their Nord Stream 2 sanctions measure.
Cruz has held up votes on key Biden nominations since May, but offered to lift the hold on some diplomatic nominees Wednesday if the amendment gets a vote.
On Monday, all Senate Republicans except Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted to filibuster the measure to cut off debate on the NDAA.
Some Democrats joined Republicans in opposing advancing the legislation without voting on amendments.
In May, the President Joe Biden waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite bipartisan support for the sanctions in 2020. At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the decision was made to “rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe.”
This week, Blinken and other Biden administration officials reportedly made calls urging senators to quash Nord Stream 2 sanction measures unless the White House has the power to waive the congressionally-mandated sanctions.
As of Thursday morning, the Senate had not voted on any amendments to the NDAA, including the Nord Stream 2 sanctions. On Wednesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stopped a deal on amendments from moving to a vote when his amendment on Chinese imports was cut from the package.
The House included an amendment providing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 with no White House waiver option in its version of the defense funding bill, which passed with bipartisan support. Some House Democrats have expressed concern about the prolonged Senate debate over the NDAA. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, released a statement on Wednesday to “urge final inclusion of mandatory Nord Stream 2 sanctions with an appropriate bipartisan Congressional waiver review process.”
The debate over sanctions comes as the Biden administration navigates Russian troops increasing their presence on the border of Ukraine and U.S. attempts to rebuild an alliance with Germany.
Foreign companies partnering on Nord Stream 2 spent more than $14.2 million since 2017 when Donald Trump become president and shortly after the pipeline’s construction kicked off. More than $7.4 million of that lobbying against sanctions and other issues related to the project came since the start of 2020 with $3 million of that spent in the first three quarters of 2021.
Nord Stream 2, which is wholly-owned by Russia’s state-run energy firm Gazprom, spent nearly $2.5 million on lobbying in the first three quarters of 2021. Nord Stream CEO Matthias Warnig and Gazprom’s executive chair Alexei Miller are both known as close allies of Russian President Vladmir Putin.