The U.S. Senate blocked an annual defense spending bill on November 29 amid objections from Republicans who said there had not been enough votes on amendments, including one that would have imposed sanctions over Nord Stream 2.
The controversial Baltic Sea pipeline to transport Russian natural gas to Germany has vocal opponents in the U.S. Congress who believe it would be harmful to European energy policy and allow Russia to reroute gas exports to Europe around Ukraine, depriving it of billions of dollars a year in transit fees. An effort to cut off debate on the Senate version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) resulted in a 45-51 vote, well short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward in the 100-member Senate. Ahead of the procedural vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) vowed to oppose advancing the bill further without progress on amendments, citing Republican demands for measures such as sanctions over Nord Stream 2.
"Considering sanctions on the pipeline that fuels [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's encroachment over Europe, including provisions from Senator [Jim] Risch that closely mirror language that the House added unanimously, is certainly worth the Senate's time," McConnell said. Among the objectors, Risch (Republican-Idaho) and Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) called for a vote on their Nord Stream 2 sanctions proposal. Despite bipartisan backing for sanctions, the Biden administration opposes them, arguing they would alienate European allies.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote "inexplicable and outrageous" and accused Republicans of voting against U.S. troops and keeping Americans safe.
The NDAA determines everything from how many ships are bought to pay increases for soldiers and how to address geopolitical threats. This year's legislation authorizes some $770 billion in Pentagon spending. Some Democrats balked over the cost, saying health care, education, and climate change should be better funded. Senator Jim Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma) said the measure would eventually pass, though it’s not immediately clear what compromises might be proposed. But Risch openly wondered about the path forward. “I don’t know how this gets done,” he said. House and Senate leaders have said they aim to send a compromise bill to President Joe Biden for his signature before the end of the year.