On Wednesday, CNN reported that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been the driving force behind blocking dozens of nominees for diplomatic positions at the State Department — but the reason doesn't have anything to do with the qualifications of those specific nominees.
Rather, he wants to force the Biden administration to change a specific foreign policy related to Russia and Germany.
"The Biden administration — with about 60 State Department nominees waiting to be confirmed — is encountering greater roadblocks in securing Senate confirmations at State than at any other agency. Administration officials and Democrats point to Republicans, who admit they're playing a role. But sources from all three groups say the bulk of the blame should be placed on Cruz," reported Kyle Atwood and Nicole Gaouette. "The junior senator from Texas has become the public face of the State Department's difficulties, proudly claiming responsibility for blocks on a slew of senior officials. Cruz is trying to pressure the administration on a specific point of Russia policy, a campaign that other Republicans say is fruitless and that triggered a fiery shouting match with Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."
Cruz's demand is that the Biden administration reimpose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, a Russian gas pipeline that would make Northern Europe more reliant on Russia for its energy needs and potentially give the Kremlin more influence in European politics. The U.S. has long opposed this project — but President Joe Biden recently waived the sanctions, after concluding the project was too far along to stop and further obstruction would just alienate Germany, which stands to economically benefit from the project.
While Cruz maintains these holds — which Democrats have the votes to overcome but which cost vital time and distract from other Senate priorities — the administration is hamstrung on a number of other policy crises.
"With violence in Afghanistan escalating and the risk of a Taliban takeover looming, the Bureau of Central and South Asian affairs is led by an acting assistant secretary," said the report. "With twin crises in the US' backyard destabilizing Cuba and Haiti, as the administration wrestles with an increasingly aggressive China — accusing it of devastating ransomware attacks — and as the White House confronts a recalcitrant Iran, all the bureaus that handle those regions are also staffed by interim leaders."
Blocking diplomatic appointments has long been a favored strategy of Republicans to punish Democratic administrations. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) famously blocked former President Barack Obama's diplomatic nominee Cassandra Butts until she died of cancer, just to make the administration's job harder.