Senators push to block Trump's ZTE deal in final defense bill

Senators push to block Trump's ZTE deal in final defense bill
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A bipartisan group of senators is urging negotiators on Capitol Hill to retain a provision in the annual defense policy bill that would block President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE’s deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

“We strongly oppose the June 2018 deal with ZTE negotiated by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to lift the seven-year ban against the export of U.S. parts and components to ZTE,” the senators wrote in a letter Thursday to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

The letter was signed by Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE (R-Fla.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (D-Md.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Iran announces it will exceed uranium stockpile restraints of nuclear deal MORE (R-Ark.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (D-Va.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (R-Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment MORE (D-Fla.).

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Rubio, Van Hollen, Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerEx-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (D-N.Y.) successfully added an amendment to the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would keep in place penalties that were levied on ZTE after it admitted to violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The amendment was added after the Commerce Department announced in June that it had agreed to lift the penalties against ZTE in exchange for the company paying a $1 billion fine and embedding a U.S.-selected compliance team into the firm.

The Commerce Department announced Wednesday that it had signed a deal with ZTE, moving the administration one step closer to lifting the ban on the Chinese phone maker doing business with U.S. companies.

The House version of the defense policy bill does not address Trump’s ZTE deal, but does include a ban on government contracting with ZTE or Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company.

The White House last month said it “strongly opposes” the Senate provision, but did not issue a veto threat against the NDAA. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill passed with veto-proof majorities.

House and Senate conferees officially started negotiations Wednesday to reconcile the two version of the NDAA. Negotiators have been tight-lipped about their plans for the ZTE provision.

In their letter, Rubio, Van Hollen, Cotton, Warner, Blunt and Nelson highlight testimony from the intelligence community that ZTE, Huawei and other Chinese state-directed firms represent a national security threat by providing the capacity for spying and intellectual property theft.

“As you prepare the conference report, we therefore urge you to retain—and further strengthen—Section 6702 of the Senate-passed FY 2019 NDAA, which would not only reinstate the April 2018 penalties against ZTE and prohibit the modification of any penalties against a Chinese telecommunications firm unless certain conditions are met, but also prohibit the U.S. government from using or procuring equipment from, or entering into a contract with ZTE or Huawei,” they wrote.

The senators also voiced support for a separate provision in the NDAA that seeks to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency panel that assesses national security threats posed by significant investments in U.S. businesses by non-U.S. investors. The reforms are meant to guard against China accessing sensitive technology.

“As you negotiate a conference report for the 2019 NDAA, we urge you to include the Senate-passed CFIUS reforms and ensure that the final language fully addresses our national security and competitiveness concerns,” the senators wrote. “We believe that efforts to weaken the robust protections in the [Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act] will embolden our adversaries and present threats to our national security.”