To Get What He Wanted On Iran, Ted Cruz Put The Brakes On A State Department Nomination

The Texas senator held up the nomination of a State Department official, pressuring the department to release a legal opinion supporting continued Iran sanctions.

By Rhonda FanningDecember 16, 2019 7:12 am

Iran hawks in the U.S. Senate, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, found a way to pressure the Trump administration to maintain a hard line. It’s a convoluted story involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s potential Senate run, and the line of succession at State.

Matthew Lee of the Associated Press has been reporting on the story. He says Cruz wanted the State Department to release an internal legal opinion that says the U.S. can demand to reimpose sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were lifted when the U.S. and other countries entered into the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Though the U.S. has pulled out of that deal, the legal opinion says the U.S. can join the U.N. Security Council in demanding that sanctions be reapplied.

To get the opinion released, Cruz put a hold on the nomination of Stephen Biegun to be deputy secretary of state. In that position, Biegun, who has wide bipartisan support, would be next in line to become acting secretary of state should Pompeo leave his position to pursue a Senate run. If Pompeo were to leave his post without Biegun waiting in the wings to succeed him, the senior career State Department official would assume the post until the Senate confirmed a new Secretary of State. The Trump administration wanted to avoid that possibility.

“There was a bit of panic last week when Ted Cruz put this hold on Steve Biegun,” Lee says.

Lee says the legal opinion has been released, and Biegun’s nomination can now go forward.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.