BISMARCK — U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., blocked a bipartisan effort to impose sanctions on China earlier this month after signing on to the bill as one of its seven co-sponsors just two weeks prior.
Cramer told Forum News Service he held up the bill's unanimous passage in the Senate following a last-minute request from the White House. News of Cramer's objection to the bill was originally reported by Politico.
The first-term senator said Treasury and State departments brought forward several technical corrections to the bill, which aims to punish China for its recent push to undercut Hong Kong's independence. Cramer said he had not seen the proposed changes when he objected to the bill, but he said the White House asked him to object so they could be considered.
Cramer said he supported the idea of the bill, but he took issue with the process. If he had not objected, the bill would have been passed by unanimous consent with just a handful of senators standing on the chamber's floor and no input from the executive branch agencies, he said.
"We're supposed to be the world's most deliberative body, not the world's most impulsive one," Cramer said.
Now, Cramer said he's confident the bill will pass this week with two or three revisions from Treasury's corrections.
President Donald Trump's administration already has the authority to impose some sanctions on China, but it has so far opted not to do so. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in May that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, a declaration that could change the way the U.S. trades with the former British colony.
It's not the first time Cramer has blocked legislation he previously supported to appease Trump.
Cramer, who is viewed as one of Trump's earliest and most loyal supporters in Congress, blocked a Senate resolution in December that would have formally recognized and condemned Turkey's genocide of the Armenian people. Cramer said at the time he blocked the resolution because the White House had been engaging in diplomatic efforts with Turkey.
Two years earlier, Cramer co-sponsored a similar resolution as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and actor Dean Cain criticized Cramer for acting hypocritically. The Senate resolution passed unanimously a week later.