Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill

Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill
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A bipartisan group of senators is trying to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to target Chinese technology companies.

On Thursday, Sen. 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.), Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The Commerce Department announced earlier Thursday that it had reached a deal to lift penalties on ZTE following pressure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE. Lawmakers who supported the sanctions said they're frustrated with the decision to ease up on penalties against ZTE. 

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.

“Both parties in Congress must come together to bring the hammer down on these companies rather than offer them a second chance, and this new bipartisan amendment will do just that,” Schumer said.

He and other lawmakers say that they are concerned about the potential national security concerns that companies like ZTE and Huawei pose. Both companies are cozy with the Chinese government, and politicians fear that they could be pressured into providing the government a backdoor into Americans' communications on their devices.

The senators' amendment follows similar efforts in the House to crack down on Chinese tech giants with their version of the NDAA.

In May, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker demands probe into defense contractor that held migrant children in vacant building Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (D-Ariz.), Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterRepublicans top Dems at charity golf game Cook Political Report shifts 5 races after California, NJ primaries Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill MORE (R-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherThe Hill's Morning Report — Battle lines drawn: Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight gets under way On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump suggests China is easing pressure on North Korea because of trade fight | Mulvaney taps top aide as No. 2 at consumer bureau | House Republican to offer bill to curtail Trump's trade powers GOP rep to introduce bill to curtail Trump's trade powers MORE (R-Wis.) introduced amendments to the NDAA that aimed to block products from both Chinese tech firms from the U.S.

The legislative proposals come amid a larger movement by lawmakers and government officials to keep Chinese technology companies out of the U.S. In January, members of Congress pressured AT&T into scrapping a deal with Huawei to sell its phones.

In May, the Pentagon banned ZTE and Huawei products from being sold on military bases, all on the grounds of national security concerns.

Updated at 3:51 p.m.