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 Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar 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 TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated 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 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger Trump faces new scrutiny over AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Md.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects border declaration in major rebuke of Trump Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (R-Ark.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Rubio's pragmatic thinking on China 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 poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (Texas) cautioned that talks were ongoing but no final decision had been made. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray 'Marie Antoinette' activist attends House hearing to protest Trump Commerce chief The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Senate GOP clash over Yemen, border security MORE is meeting with senators on Monday evening to walk them through the details of the agreement.