State Department officials, at the invitation of Senate Democrats opposed to Cruz's bill, briefed a group of Democrats, including senators viewed as swing votes on the GOP sanctions bills that will get a vote this week. To pass the bill through the Senate, Cruz will need the support of 10 Democratic senators.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who opposed Cruz's bill and helped organize Monday's meeting, expressed he thought momentum was moving toward Democrats blocking Cruz's legislation, though he wasn't sure whether or not they would be able to keep the number of Democratic "yes" votes under 10.
"Sen. Cruz's desire is to break the United States from Europe," Murphy asserted. "I think this amendment is really unwise, and I don't know where the votes will land on it." "We asked them to brief the group of senators who we know are undecided," Murphy added about the meeting with the State Department officials.
Among the senators entering Monday night's briefing, where Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, met with senators, were Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Jackie Rosen (Nev.) and John Hickenlooper (Colo.)
Senators insist the pitch from the State Department focused on an argument that Cruz's amendment would not deter Russia from invading Ukraine, where it has amassed troops along the border.
"The message was that it would hurt the negotiations that have been going on with Germany, with Ukraine in terms of Russia's impact on Ukraine," said Tester.
Tester, who said he was undecided, added that the administration needs to do a "better job of messaging where the flaws are" in the Cruz proposal.
Manchin added that he was trying to learn about the potential "diplomatic ramifications" with the U.S-German relationship if Cruz's legislation was passed.
Democrats agreed to allow for a vote on Cruz's legislation at a 60-vote threshold in exchange for the Texas Republican dropping his blockade on some of Biden's nominees, who were confirmed as part of a marathon session late last year. As part of the deal, the Senate has to vote on Cruz's legislation by January 14.
Cruz told reporters late last week that he thinks he has a "good" chance of winning over enough Democrats.