Joe Manchin Backs Stopping Ted Cruz Blockade of Diplomatic Nominees

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin may be holding up his party's Build Back Better Act, but he could be key to ending a blockade on approving President Joe Biden's diplomatic nominees.

Senate Republicans have joined Democrats in expressing concerns about Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) moves to delay the confirmation of dozens of American ambassadors, especially at a time when U.S. national security interests are facing challenges on several fronts.

Cruz has cited his resistance to the Biden administration's policy on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as being behind his refusal to allow for swift confirmation votes on the nominations. The Texas senator shares the view held by many Republicans—and some Democrats—that the pipeline hands a strategic advantage to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cruz cannot completely block Biden's nominees but he has slowed the process by objecting to the Senate's practice of confirming uncontroversial nominees by "unanimous consent." This tactic means that each nominee requires hours of Senate floor time, The New York Times reported.

Also delaying matters is the stance of Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has held up the confirmation of other State Department officials over his unhappiness with Biden's handling of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

There are 64 ambassador nominees who are awaiting confirmation, according to the American Foreign Service Association.

Ahead of Biden's visit to the G20 summit and the COP26 climate meeting, U.S. lawmakers and diplomats expressed concerns that the ambassadorial blockade left the president at a disadvantage as he tried to negotiate with world leaders.

But senators are looking to jumpstart the confirmation process by allowing the upper house to vote on a bloc of up to five nominees at a time, CNN reported. This would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Manchin, a centrist who this week voted with the Republicans in a symbolic move to roll back COVID-19 vaccine mandates, told CNN that the blockade of diplomats was "wrong" and that he would be open to changing the Senate rules, with GOP support.

"I think the Republicans would be in for that too," he told the network, which reported that Manchin is involved in discussions "to work around" Cruz.

Other key Republicans, such as Cruz's fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn as well as Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), also told CNN it was important to get diplomats in place in countries crucial to U.S. interests, such as China, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Japan.

"I'd be glad to help find whatever votes they need to make that happen," Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) told the network.

Newsweek has contacted Cruz's office for comment.

Joe Manchin and Ted Cruz
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (left) is shown in this split image with Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz. Manchin has told CNN he is open to changing the rules to confirm diplomats that have been blocked by Cruz. Getty