Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill

Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill
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A bipartisan group of senators is trying to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to target Chinese technology companies.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown 'Morning Joe' host quizzes Howard Schultz on price of a box of Cheerios MORE (R-Ark.), Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

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The Commerce Department announced earlier Thursday that it had reached a deal to lift penalties on ZTE following pressure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE. Lawmakers who supported the sanctions said they're frustrated with the decision to ease up on penalties against ZTE. 

The amendment would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

“Both parties in Congress must come together to bring the hammer down on these companies rather than offer them a second chance, and this new bipartisan amendment will do just that,” Schumer said.

He and other lawmakers say that they are concerned about the potential national security concerns that companies like ZTE and Huawei pose. Both companies are cozy with the Chinese government, and politicians fear that they could be pressured into providing the government a backdoor into Americans' communications on their devices.

The senators' amendment follows similar efforts in the House to crack down on Chinese tech giants with their version of the NDAA.

In May, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE (D-Ariz.), Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherOn The Money: Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump emergency declaration | Banks made billion in extra profits thanks to GOP tax law | IRS analyst charged with leaking Cohen's financial records GOP lawmaker comes out against Trump's emergency declaration Bipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals MORE (R-Wis.) introduced amendments to the NDAA that aimed to block products from both Chinese tech firms from the U.S.

The legislative proposals come amid a larger movement by lawmakers and government officials to keep Chinese technology companies out of the U.S. In January, members of Congress pressured AT&T into scrapping a deal with Huawei to sell its phones.

In May, the Pentagon banned ZTE and Huawei products from being sold on military bases, all on the grounds of national security concerns.

Updated at 3:51 p.m.