In a move both Democrats and Republicans warn is harming U.S. diplomacy, Sen. Ted Cruz is blocking nominees from being confirmed for "vital" State Department roles to make a political point, CNN reports.
Half a year into the Biden administration, just six State Department candidates have been confirmed on the Senate floor, while Cruz's obstructionism has left 60 more in a holding pattern, according to the news organization.
Cruz is using his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to block votes on nominees so he can protest the White House giving a sanctions waiver to a company building a Russian gas pipeline, CNN reports, citing six sources familiar with the process.
The only way to overcome Cruz's repeated objections is for Dems to maneuver around a filibuster for each nomination, the sources said. Tempers have already begun to fray as Cruz digs in his heels.
"Maybe it's your presidential aspirations, I don't know, but you're turning to political purposes," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, angrily told Cruz during a recent confrontation over the holdups. "You held over every nominee. Every nominee! I've never seen that."
And Democrats aren't the only ones pissed at Cruz. Republicans in the Senate told CNN that Cruz's fight against the waiver — an effort to improve diplomatic ties with Germany, a key U.S. ally — is "fruitless." Further, Cruz bears "the bulk of the blame" for grinding nominations to a halt, the GOP members said.
Cruz has built his political brand by being a fly in the ointment. But the CNN piece points out that his current obstruction campaign — much like his bid to overturn 2020's legitimate presidential election — appears to have real consequences.
An acting assistant secretary now heads the Bureau of Central and South Asian affairs as Afghanistan heads into further instability, according to the report. Interim leaders also oversee Cuba, Haiti, Iran and China as the U.S. faces serious diplomatic challenges related to those countries.
"The holdup shows how the Senate is no longer working in the way it worked in the past," a Democratic Senate aide told CNN. "Everyone is trying to get something they want for allowing a simple nomination to go forth."
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