Senate Republicans plan to block two of President Joe Biden's Treasury Department nominations because the administration refused to sanction Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project in Europe, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Twelve GOP members of the Senate Banking Committee, which has oversight of the Treasury, threatened the action, the WSJ reported Wednesday night. The move could hold up the chamber’s approval indefinitely of the two candidates nominated to lead the administration's sanctions policy.
The Republican senators wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to say they would continue to block the nominations so long as the administration chose not to impose sanctions against the Russian project, or until it "adequately addresses the absence of penalties," the WSJ reported.
"We urge you to reverse course on Nord Stream 2 and join us in Congress’s longstanding defense of European allies and partners from malign Russian aggression," the senators said.
Brian Nelson was nominated to be the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and Elizabeth Rosenberg was nominated for the assistant secretary for terrorism financing post.
A Republican aide told the WSJ the senators believe the two officials are qualified to serve.
Nelson and Rosenberg have appeared before the committee, but a vote on their nominations hasn't been scheduled.
The two Treasury Department positions are national security roles critical to implementing U.S. foreign policy through leverage of the dollar's unparalleled power as the world's reserve currency.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was opposed by previous administrations, but Biden approved the deal earlier this month. The administration, which still opposes the pipeline, said the project was too far along to prevent its completion.
Waiving sanctions gives the green light to a project that will expand Russia's political influence over Europe, the Republicans said.
The administration said imposing penalties on Moscow would have created diplomatic friction with Germany, an ally whose businesses and former officials are involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.
The WSJ reported that Biden and his team also see Berlin’s cooperation as necessary to securing other top foreign policy goals.
The aide told the WSJ that Republican senators' took issue with deciding to waive sanctions without a congressional review, something required under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
The aide also told the WSJ that committee GOP members didn’t receive the assurances they sought from Nelson and Rosenberg about the administration’s effort to re-enter the Iran nuclear accord.
The WSJ reported that Republicans believe there is a chance at least one Democrat lawmaker — Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. — might join them in their opposition based on his shared criticisms of the administration’s Nord Stream 2 and Iran policies.
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