GOP senator fails to kill provision blocking Trump's ZTE deal

GOP senator fails to kill provision blocking Trump's ZTE deal
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Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) tried unsuccessfully on Wednesday to remove a provision in a mammoth defense bill that would block 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's deal to protect Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

Perdue asked for unanimous consent to strip the section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would keep the penalties against ZTE in place, arguing blocking the deal would undercut Trump's ability to negotiate. 

ZTE had admitted to violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The current Senate bill "would trample on the separation of powers and undercut the Trump administration's authority to impose these penalties," Perdue said. "We should not tie the hands of the administration to enact penalties as they see fit, particularly in these times of aggressive actions by foreign players." 

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But Democratic Sen. 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 (Md.) objected to Perdue's request, paving the way for the provision blocking Trump's ZTE deal to remain in the defense bill. 

"Removing that provision would send a bad signal to anybody around the world watching that you can violate U.S. sanctions law with impunity and we shouldn't be doing that," Van Hollen aded. 

The Senate moved earlier in the week to use the NDAA to block Trump's deal on ZTE. They added a provision keeping the Commerce Department penalties in place to a substitute amendment that is expected be tacked on to the defense bill before it passes the chamber. 

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 the deal sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been frustrated with the administration's efforts.   

Perdue's statement on Wednesday echoed concerns from the White House over including a provision blocking the ZTE deal in the defense bill. 

“The Administration will work with Congress to ensure the final NDAA conference report respects the separation of powers.” said Hogan Gidley, a deputy press secretary for the White House. 

The Senate amendment would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from ZTE and Chinese telecom firm Huawei, as well as banning the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

Even if the provision is included in the Senate's defense bill, it would still need to survive a conference with the House. Lawmakers could also face a showdown with Trump, who needs to sign the final bill.