McCaul urges senators to block vote on Commerce secretary over Huawei concerns

Stefani Reynolds

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday called on the Senate to block a vote to confirm Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s nominee for Commerce secretary, over concerns about her stance on Chinese telecommunications group Huawei.

McCaul specifically cited concerns regarding Raimondo’s unclear answer during her nomination hearing earlier in the week about whether Huawei would remain on the Commerce Department’s entity list, with companies on the list effectively blacklisted. 

“Until they make their intentions clear on whether they will keep Huawei on the Entity List, I urge my Senate colleagues to hold Ms. Raimondo’s confirmation,” McCaul said in a statement Wednesday criticizing the Biden administration’s stance toward Huawei remaining on the list. 

Huawei, which is one of the largest 5G equipment manufacturers in the world, was added to the list by the Trump administration over potential ties to the Chinese government and espionage concerns. It has also been classified as a national security threat by the Federal Communications Commission, though Huawei is currently fighting that in court.

Raimondo was questioned by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during her nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday about whether she would commit to keeping Huawei on the entity list. 

While Raimondo pledged earlier in the hearing to “use the full tool kit at my disposal to the fullest extent possible to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference,” she did not firmly commit to keeping the telecom giant on the list. 

“I will commit that should I be confirmed and I am there, I will review the policy, consult with you, consult with industry, consult with our allies, and make an assessment as to what’s best for American national and economic security,” Raimondo told Cruz when questioned on Huawei.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has also been questioned on the status of Huawei twice this week and has stressed the Biden administration’s intention to hold firm in securing U.S. telecommunications systems against any potential Chinese threats. 

“Telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors, including Huawei, is a threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies,” Psaki told reporters Wednesday. “We’ll ensure that the American telecommunications network does not use equipment from untrusted vendors, and we will work with allies to secure their telecommunications networks and make investments to expand the production of telecommunications equipment by trusted U.S. and allied companies.”

McCaul on Wednesday criticized this statement along with Psaki’s earlier comments this week that did not give details on if Huawei would remain on the entity list. 

“It is incredibly alarming the Biden Administration has refused to commit to keeping Huawei on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List,” McCaul said. “Huawei is not a normal telecommunications company – it is a CCP military company that threatens 5G security in our country, steals U.S. intellectual property, and supports the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide in Xinjiang and their human rights abuses across the country.”

“Saying people should not use Huawei and actually keeping them on the Entity List are two very different things that result in very different outcomes,” McCaul said. “I again strongly urge the Biden Administration to reconsider this dangerous position.”

The Senate will not vote on Raimondo’s confirmation until she is approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, which is set to vote on the matter on Feb. 3. 

Concerns around Huawei have been an area of agreement over the past few years, with former President Trump signing into law bipartisan legislation last year that banned the use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment due to security concerns and established a fund for small telecom groups to rip out and replace existing Huawei equipment. 

Several allied countries have also taken steps against the company, with the United Kingdom and France last year both making moves to limit the use of Huawei equipment in critical networks. 

While McCaul as a member of the House does not have the power to place a hold on Raimondo’s nomination, there are several Republican members of the Senate who have expressed deep concerns about Huawei who do have the ability to block a vote. 

Cruz could be one of them, with a spokesperson for the senator telling The Hill on Wednesday that Cruz “was deeply concerned by Commerce Secretary nominee Raimondo’s comments on Huawei yesterday and all options remain on the table.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) could be another, putting out a statement Tuesday describing Huawei as “the Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet and a serious threat to national security,” and stressing that “tough talk on China is empty if you let Huawei out of the box.” A spokesperson for Sasse did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

A Republican spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee told The Hill that they hoped McCaul’s comments would “encourage” senators to block Raimondo’s nomination. 

“Rep. McCaul is not one to throw bombs for no reason,” the spokesperson said. “But this is a very important issue, and that is why he felt it was important to make it clear this is not acceptable.” 

“We have been urging our allies and countries around the world to stop using Huawei,” they added. “What kind of message does that send to them if we are now wavering?”

Tags Ben Sasse China Donald Trump Gina Raimondo Huawei Huawei Jen Psaki Michael McCaul Ted Cruz

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