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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 TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos 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 RubioCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over' It's past time we elect a Black woman governor MORE (R-Fla.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Md.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCourt fines baker 0 for refusing to make gender transition cake Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over' Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE (R-Ark.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Hillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack MORE (D-Va.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler launches Missouri Senate bid Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' MORE (R-Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio Russia threatens to leave International Space Station program over US sanctions Nikki Fried, only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, launches challenge to DeSantis MORE (D-Fla.).

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Rubio, Van Hollen, Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees Overnight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' 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.”