Senate panel overwhelmingly approves amendment blocking Trump on ZTE

A Senate panel on Tuesday rebuked President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's efforts to ease sanctions on the Chinese telecom firm ZTE, which the intelligence community and trade regulators have warned poses a national security risk for the U.S.
 
The Senate Banking Committee approved an amendment in an overwhelming and bipartisan 23-2 vote that would block Trump from easing sanctions on ZTE without first certifying to Congress that the company is complying with U.S. law.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The move comes the same day The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration and China are closing in on a deal to ease off ZTE in exchange for trade concessions. That report raised concerns among lawmakers of both parties who have advocated for a crackdown on Chinese technology companies.
 
“If the president and his team won’t follow through on tough sanctions against ZTE, it’s up to Congress to ensure that it happens," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 
 
"Both parties have come together today to strongly rebuke ZTE and the administration’s soft approach. This critical legislation along with the [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] reforms that it was added to are huge steps forward in our fight against the Chinese, and we should pass this legislation on the floor immediately,” he said.
 
The Department of Commerce barred U.S. businesses from selling to ZTE last month after it found that the company had lied to investigators looking into its business with Iran and North Korea.
 
The ban crippled ZTE, which is heavily reliant on U.S. suppliers, and forced the company to shutter its operations earlier this month.
 
ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese firm, have been the subject of intense scrutiny from the U.S. government. A 2012 report from Congress warned that the companies' technology could be used by the Chinese government to conduct surveillance on the U.S.
 
The ZTE sanctions now appear to have become a centerpiece of the administration's trade negotiations with Beijing. Trump tweeted earlier this month that he wants the Commerce Department to come up with a way to bail the company out in order to save Chinese jobs.
 
Republicans and Democrats who have been urging a tougher stand on the firms have voiced their opposition to the plan.
 
In response to Tuesday's Journal report, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP looks to injure Nelson over Russia comments Rubio’s pro-family, conservative family leave policy promotes stability Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE (R-Fla.) said in a tweet that the move would constitute a surrender to China and promised to work on "veto-proof congressional action."