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Cruz blocks vote on Biden Commerce secretary nominee over Huawei concerns

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday formally placed a hold on the Senate voting on the nomination of Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoRepublican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices Hillicon Valley: Intel leaders push for breach notification law | Coinbase goes public House Republicans raise concerns about new Chinese tech companies MORE, President Biden’s pick for Commerce secretary, due to concerns Raimondo has not clarified her stance on Chinese telecom giant Huawei. 

“I’ll lift the hold when the Biden admin commits to keep the massive Chinese Communist Party spy operation Huawei on the Entity List,” Cruz tweeted in response to a report from Bloomberg Business that he had blocked a vote on Raimondo. 

Cruz’s block comes after over a week of criticism from both House and Senate Republicans of Raimondo’s comments on Huawei during her confirmation hearing. 

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The Commerce Department under the Trump administration added Huawei, one of the largest 5G equipment manufacturers in the world, to its “entity list,” effectively blacklisting the company over concerns it posed an espionage threat due to ties to the Chinese government. 

Raimondo made clear that if confirmed, 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,” but did not specifically commit to keeping Huawei on the entity list when Cruz questioned her about it during her confirmation hearing. 

She later made clear in written responses to questions from members of the Senate Commerce Committee that she had “no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there.”

Cruz voted against approving Raimondo during the committee vote Wednesday, with Raimondo advancing out of committee by a vote of 21-3.

“Gina Raimondo’s ethics issues and soft stance on China including her refusal to commit to keep Huawei on the Entities List is deeply troubling,” Cruz tweeted Wednesday following the committee vote. “That’s why I voted against advancing her nomination and I urge my colleagues to refuse to confirm her.”

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The hold on Raimondo’s nomination comes after Cotton and Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseToomey warns GOP colleagues to stay away from earmarks Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision MORE (R-Neb.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to Raimondo asking her to clarify her stance on keeping Huawei on the entity list.

A coalition of almost two dozen House Republicans, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 MORE (R-Texas), also pressured senators to block a vote on Raimondo’s nomination until she made clear her stance on Huawei. 

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McCaul on Thursday night celebrated Cruz’s decision to block a vote on Raimondo. 

"As I have repeatedly expressed, #Huawei is not a normal telecommunications company – it is an arm of the #CCP’s military that poses a significant threat to U.S. national security and supports the CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang,” McCaul said in a statement tweeted out by the committee. “The Biden Administration must take this seriously.”

Republicans have also taken issue with the White House’s unclear stance on Huawei’s place on the entity list.

Reporters have questioned White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson delay prompts criticism of CDC panel | Pfizer CEO says third dose of COVID-19 vaccine 'likely' needed within one year | CDC finds less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people got COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference MORE about Huawei twice since Biden took office, and while she stressed during press briefings 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 if Huawei will remain on the list.  

The Trump administration put huge pressure on Huawei, with Trump signing into law legislation last year barring use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to classify the company as a national security threat. 

Huawei has denied allegations it poses a threat, and is currently challenging the FCC designation in court.