Senators strike deal to include ZTE penalties in must-pass defense bill
© Greg Nash

Senators announced Monday that legislation keeping in place penalties against Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE will be included in a must-pass defense policy bill.

“By including this provision to undo the ZTE deal in the defense bill, the Senate is saying loudly and in a bipartisan fashion that the president is dead wrong to back off on ZTE," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.), a supporter of the amendment, said in a statement. 

The amendment keeping in place penalties against ZTE is expected to be added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that the Senate is poised to pass as soon as this week. 

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The amendment would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

The provision still needs to survive a conference with the House, which passed its own defense bill. If it's in the final bill it could provoke a showdown with President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE, who needs to sign the must-pass defense policy bill. 

The Trump administration announced late last week that it had reached a deal to lift penalties against the company in exchange for ZTE paying a $1 billion fine and embedding a U.S.-selected compliance team in the firm. 

But talk of a deal to save ZTE has sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been frustrated with the administration's efforts. 

Schumer said earlier on Monday that the agreement was as "weak as a wet noodle" and argued the administration had been "outmaneuvered" in the agreement.

Schumer, as well as Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington GOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (D-Md.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (R-Ark.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit GOP senator: We should accept Trump's 'apology' for Russian election interference comments Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws MORE (R-Fla.), filed the amendment last week to the NDAA to restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

“ZTE has repeatedly violated U.S. law and represents a threat to our national security – Congress cannot and will not allow the Administration to let ZTE off the hook in the interest of Chinese jobs," Van Hollen said in a statement.

“The threat Huawei and ZTE pose to our national security is too great to ignore. This amendment will help keep Americans' private information out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, and I’m pleased it will be included in the NDAA,” Cotton added.

Senators have been privately discussing adding the bipartisan proposal into the NDAA. 

Rubio told reporters earlier on Monday that he expected it to be included, while GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (Texas) cautioned that talks were ongoing but no final decision had been made. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: Commerce to review uranium imports | Lawmakers urge Trump not to impose auto tariffs | White House wants steeper cuts to EPA funding | Google hit with massive B fine Auto industry groups, lawmakers urge Trump administration to avoid tariffs on auto imports Census Bureau faces hiring woes amid low unemployment MORE is meeting with senators on Monday evening to walk them through the details of the agreement.