President Biden's Democratic Party defeats Senate bid to impose immediate sanctions on a Russian pipeline to Germany, fearing setting back diplomacy to prevent Moscow from invading Ukraine.
The US Senate has failed to pass a bill to slap sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a day after Democrats unveiled their own legislation.
The tally, as voting continued, was 55 in favour and 43 against the bill that needed 60 votes to pass, a major hurdle in the 50-50 Senate.
Senator Robert Menendez has won the support of many of his fellow Democrats, including President Joe Biden, for an alternative bill he introduced on Wednesday.
It would impose sweeping sanctions on top Russian government and military officials and banking institutions if Moscow engages in hostilities against Ukraine.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who had originally co-sponsored Nord Stream 2 sanctions legislation with Cruz opposed his bill, saying it risked breaking unity in Washington and in Europe over Russian aggression against Ukraine.
She said Cruz's legislation would "drive a wedge" between the United States and its allies in Europe, particularly Germany, in a speech before the vote.
The Kremlin warned on Thursday that sanctions that personally target Putin could lead to a "rupture of ties" with the United States.
A dangerous risk
The United States, as well as some European countries including Ukraine and Poland, oppose the pipeline, which would deprive Kiev of transit fees as well as increase Moscow's leverage over Europe, where gas prices have been soaring.
Cruz said before the vote that if his bill did not pass "Ukraine risks getting wiped off the map altogether."
The Menendez bill, which does not yet have a date for a vote, would put sanctions on the pipeline, and Russian officials and entities after any aggression on Ukraine by Moscow.
The Cruz bill would have put sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the company building the project, within 15 days of passage.
The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline, led by state energy company Gazprom, would send Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Europe via Germany.
It was completed late last year but is pending approvals by Germany and the EU that may not come until the middle of the year.