Cruz’s decision tightens his grip on Biden’s diplomatic appointments at a time when the Iran nuclear deal is collapsing, tensions with China are intensifying, refugees want to leave Afghanistan and sensitive negotiations over the climate change are reaching their climax.
At the same time, Cruz allows other largely uncontroversial State Department candidates to navigate without additional obstacles. Foreign relations of the Senate The committee, of which Cruz is a member, put forward dozens of nominations later Tuesday, including former Senses ambassador positions. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Tom Udall (DN.M.), as well as Cindy McCain and Julianne Smith, Biden’s choose to represent the United States at NATO Headquarters.
The nomination of Leaf is the only one that Cruz retained during the markup on Tuesday; the rest were approved and sent to the Senate for final review.
But in a brief interview Tuesday afternoon, Cruz told POLITICO that he left open the possibility of delaying Senate action on one of the candidates the committee approved on Tuesday – not just Leaf’s.
“Going to the ground is a different matter,” said Cruz.
Cruz’s grip on Leaf’s nomination – including his threat to slow down other Senate candidates – will force the administration to further explain its Middle East policy, to put pressure on the Senate Majority Leader. , Chuck Schumer, so that he can spend precious time breathing in before retaining him or completely withdrawing his appointment.
Leaf did not respond to a request for comment. Democrats criticized Cruz for the take, accusing him of focusing on political theater at the expense of US national security.
“Senator Cruz’s objection to Barbara Leaf has NOTHING to do with her qualifications,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter. “It’s just more political demagoguery that leaves America vulnerable without a top diplomat in the Middle East. “
Tuesday’s decision also opens a new front in Cruz’s political battles with Biden.
The Texas senator’s detentions on diplomatic and national security candidates began as a protest against the administration’s decision to lift mandatory sanctions on the near-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. Cruz and others on both sides believe it was a strategic mistake, as it will give Moscow more influence in Europe.
But now the Texan is taking over the administration’s management of his Middle East policy. Cruz is a longtime critic of the Iranian deal and would prefer the United States to remain outside the pact, while also remaining a supporter of the Abraham accords negotiated by Donald Trump between Israel and Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain. and the United Arab Emirates.
Cruz is now expected to raise his doubts about Biden’s Middle East policy at Foreign Relations Committee meetings this week, exacerbating already high tensions between the lawmaker and the administration.
While reviewing Leaf’s appointment, Cruz asked him to detail any “arrangements, deals, or deals the Biden administration is considering to reduce pressure on Iran” instead of a reversion to the 2015 nuclear deal. “There have been no such arrangements, deals or deals considered to reduce the pressure on Iran,” Leaf replied.
“This testimony is false,” reads Cruz’s two-page team attached to the email. In the footnotes, Cruz’s team cited two Reuters articles reporting that the US was considering taking small steps with Iran as a confidence plan, and another about US officials considering a a “less for less” alternative, which would require fewer restrictions on Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for fewer sanctions lifting. Neither story says that the purpose of these other arrangements was expressly to “reduce pressure on Iran,” but rather reports on ongoing diplomatic discussions and considerations between Tehran and Washington.
The senator also asked to see internal State Department documents asking staff to characterize Israel’s agreements with Arab nations as “normalization agreements” and not “Abraham’s agreements” – although the The Biden administration still uses the term from the Trump era. Leaf said she was “unable” to share such documents as a candidate, but said she would “address your concerns” once confirmed by the entire Senate.
The State Department’s long-standing view is that it is not for a candidate to turn over documents to a congressional committee. Only the agency can do it.
Cruz also asked three questions about Egypt, but the main one concerned the 16 people detained by Egypt in what the United States has called a serious human rights violation. He wanted to know whether the $ 130 million the United States withheld from security assistance in Cairo depended on their release, as well as the names, affiliation and specific charges against those individuals. In addition, he would like to know if any of the 16 people are members of Islamist groups and if the administration intends to grant them American visas if they are released.
Leaf’s lengthy response to these questions did not please Cruz’s team – and neither did any of his responses overall. “Leaf answered almost a thousand words. She answered 0 of the questions, ”the two-page document notes.
“We asked the State Department to have him answer the questions again – the point was to get answers, not to set traps. They didn’t respond for a few weeks, then after Leaf was cleared, they emailed us saying that if we wanted any rewrites my boss should lift his Nord Stream 2-related blockages, ”he read. e-mail from Cruz’s staff to the Senate allies.