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nordstream-2

Democrats use the Filibuster to Defend Putin’s Gas Pipeline

Forty-four Democratic Senators joined a filibuster, preventing the Senate to impose sanctions on the Nordstream 2 pipeline

On Thursday, a bill introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reestablishing sanctions targeting the Russian-backed Nordstream 2 gas pipeline was defeated due to the almost total opposition of the Democratic caucus. The catch: the bill failed to pass because Democrats used the reviled Filibuster to shut it down, as the final vote tally was 55-44, five votes short of a filibuster-proof majority.

The measure would reestablish the American stance against Nordstream 2, a pipeline that would substantially increase the amount of gas that Russia provides to Europe. Opposing the construction of the project had been a common position held by many previous administrations —both Democratic and Republican— as it was feared Putin would use the newly found advantage to pressure Europe to acquiesce to Moscow’s wishes. However, Biden’s White House decided to rescind the sanctions on the pipeline’s operators, a stunning reversal of U.S foreign policy.

The decision by Senate Democrats to block the imposition of sanctions to Nordstream 2 comes at the same time when tensions between Washington D.C. and Moscow are at historic heights. Russian troops have been deployed near the Ukrainian border for weeks, and on Friday the Pentagon warned that Russia could use troops to stage a “false flag” operation in order to justify an invasion of Ukraine.

According to an Axios report, the White House itself successfully lobbied Democratic Senators to filibuster Senator Cruz’s bill, as State Department officials quickly distributed talking points across Capitol Hill to ensure that Democratic senators would vote with the administration. The Biden administration has argued that imposing new sanctions on the Nordstream 2 project would “undermine the unity of our allies.”

The only Democratic Senators that voted for the motion were Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Jack Rosen (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). The lone Republican who voted against the bill was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

ted-cruz-nordstream-filibuster
Ted Cruz presented a bill reintroducing sanctions to the Nordstream 2 pipeline (EFE)

Democrats are great opponents of the filibuster until it suits them

The failure of Cruz’s bill also comes after a very public and energetic push from President Biden and the Democratic congressional leadership to scrap the Filibuster in order to pass a federal overhaul of voting laws across the country. In recent days, President Biden said that in order to defend American democracy  “we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the Filibuster.”

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Democrats and progressive activists have been calling for the abolition of the filibuster for months, yet many of them had no qualms of using the same maneuver they have lambasted as an obstacle for American democracy to block sanctions that would hurt the foreign policy goals of Mr. Putin. For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told Axios last year that the Senate filibuster “has deep roots in racism, and it should not be permitted to serve that function or to create a veto for the minority. In a democracy, it’s majority rules.” Yet, Senator Warren was among the 44 Democratic Senators who used the filibuster to defeat Senator Cruz’s proposal.

While Democrats have been pushing extremely hard to convince Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema (D-AZ) to destroy the filibuster to allow the passage of a sweeping voting regulations overhaul, they themselves have been more than willing to use the same procedure that President Obama called a “Jim Crow relic” when they were not in control of the Senate.

Between 2017 and 2020, when Republicans controlled the Senate and the White House, there were a total of 529 clotures motions filed to end a Filibuster. Just between 2019-2020, Democrats forced Republicans to file 328 motions to end a filibuster. While Democrats argue that the Filibuster is a practice with an inherently racist past that goes against the very concept of constitutional democracy, it appears they only remember this troubling history when the filibuster is used against them, just to quickly forget it the minute they are in the minority.

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