Cybersecurity

House Republicans urge Senate to block vote on Commerce secretary over Huawei

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A coalition of House Republicans on Tuesday urged their Senate colleagues to place a hold on Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s nominee for Commerce secretary, arguing that she has not clarified her stance on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. 

Almost two dozen Republicans, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas), raised concerns over Raimondo’s statements during her nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Raimondo at the hearing was unclear about whether she would keep Huawei on the Commerce Department’s “entity list,” which imposes strict licensing requirements on the country for exporting or transferring specified items. The Trump administration added Huawei on the list.

Huawei is one of the world’s largest providers of 5G equipment. The Trump administration determined it was an espionage risk due to its ties to the Chinese government. 

“There have been repeated, bipartisan calls to keep Huawei on the Entity List in the past, with Members on both sides of the aisle referring to the company as a national security threat,” the House Republicans said in a joint statement on Tuesday. 

“We urge those Senators who have a history of calling for Huawei to remain on the Entity List to stick to their principles and place a hold on Ms. Raimondo’s confirmation until the Biden Administration clarifies their intentions for Huawei and on export control policies for a country that is carrying out genocide and threatening our national security,” they said. 

During her hearing, Raimondo when asked about Huawei and the list said she would “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.”

The House Republicans, who also included House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), also raised concerns that the Biden administration has not clarified its stance on Huawei. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been questioned twice about Huawei since Biden took office, and while she stressed that “telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors, including Huawei, is a threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies,” Psaki has not confirmed Huawei will remain on the entity list. 

“The fact that the Biden Administration has still refused to commit to keeping Huawei on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List is incredibly alarming and dangerous,” the House Republicans said Tuesday.

The House Republicans released a fact sheet in conjunction with their statement outlining further concerns around Huawei, and highlighting that the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes a clause that ensures Huawei cannot be removed from the entity list until it can be proven that the company is not longer a national security threat. 

Concerns around Huawei have been bipartisan over the past few years on Capitol Hill, with former President Trump signing into law 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. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also unanimously designated Huawei a national security threat and banned U.S. telecom groups from using FCC funds to purchase equipment from the company. Huawei has repeatedly denied claims that it poses a threat, and is fighting the FCC designation in court. 

McCaul urged the Senate last week to place a hold on Raimondo’s nomination over the Huawei concerns. 

While House members cannot directly place a hold on nominations, three Republicans senators who do have this power also raised concerns over Raimondo’s lack of clarity on Huawei last week. 

Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to Raimondo on Friday asking her to “respond in writing” detailing her stance on Huawei if confirmed as Commerce secretary. 

“The CCP is already taking action to test whether President Biden’s administration will carry on the campaign to level the playing field for American businesses, counter malign actors like Huawei, and keep pressure on technological chokepoints,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you, as the nominee to be the next Secretary of Commerce, be forceful about the strategic imperatives of this moment.”

The senators did not state whether they planned to place a hold on Raimondo’s confirmation, and spokespersons for Sasse, Rubio and Cotton did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who questioned Raimondo about Huawei during her committee nomination hearing, told The Hill last week that Cruz was “deeply concerned by Commerce Secretary nominee Raimondo’s comments on Huawei” and that “all options remain on the table” in regards to a nomination block. 

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Hill Tuesday afternoon that “no one has a longer, tougher record against China’s rapacious and predatory practices than Chuck Schumer and he will support Gov. Raimondo’s nomination when it comes up for a vote.”

Schumer has previously been vocal about his concerns around Huawei, tweeting in 2019 that “Huawei is one of few potent levers we have to make China play fair on trade.”

The Senate cannot vote on Raimondo’s nomination until she is approved in committee, with the Senate Commerce Committee scheduled to vote on the issue Wednesday.

-Updated at 4:58 p.m.

Tags Ben Sasse Charles Schumer China Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Gina Raimondo Huawei Huawei Jen Psaki Marco Rubio Michael McCaul Mike Rogers Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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