U.S. Senate to vote on Cruz’s Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill on Thursday

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FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Russia

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate will vote on Thursday on a bill being pushed by Republican Ted Cruz to slap sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in Europe, although it is not expected to garner enough support to pass.

The bill is scheduled for a vote at around 2:45 p.m. ET (1945 GMT), according to Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff.

Cruz struck a deal with Democrats last month to get a vote before Jan. 14 on the Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline in exchange for lifting his hold on dozens of Democratic President Joe Biden’s ambassador nominations.

Under the deal, Cruz’s bill would need 60 votes to pass, a high hurdle in the evenly divided chamber where bipartisanship is scarce.

Cruz’s bill would slap sanctions on the pipeline within 15 days of passage, regardless of whether Russia reinvades Ukraine, and would allow the U.S. Congress to vote to reinstate sanctions should the president waive them. Cruz has said sanctions are needed immediately to stop the project.

The $11 billion pipeline, led by Russia’s state gas company Gazprom, could be approved by German regulators in the middle of the year, the chief executive of Uniper SE, one of five European energy companies helping to finance the pipeline, said last week.

The United States, as well as some European countries including Ukraine and Poland, are against the pipeline, which would deprive Kyiv of transit fees as well as increase Moscow’s leverage over Europe, where gas prices have been sky rocketing.

On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez unveiled a bill to impose sweeping sanctions on top Russian government and military officials and key banking institutions if Moscow engages in hostilities against Ukraine.

The Menendez-backed bill provides an alternative for Democrats who support sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and makes it harder for Cruz’s bill to pass.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Costas Pitas; Editing by Sandra Maler)