WASHINGTON — Teeing up a bipartisan rebuke of the U.S. president, the Senate’s must-pass defense policy bill will include legislation to maintain penalties against Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, lawmakers announced Monday.
“The fact that a bipartisan group of senators came together this quickly is a testament to how bad the Trump administration’s ZTE deal is and how we will not shy away from holding the president’s feet to the fire when it comes to keeping his promise to be tough on China,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Monday.
An amendment that would keep prior penalties in place against ZTE is expected to be part of the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to pass the upper chamber this week. It was included in a “manager’s package” of 44 bipartisan amendments to the bill, which reflects approval from Democratic and Republican leaders.
The action comes after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced earlier in the week that ZTE would pay a fine of $1 billion and the U.S. would end a ban preventing the firm from buying American parts. The deal was in place after the U.S. found that ZTE evaded sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
Instead, the amendment would ban U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE, and it would ban the U.S. government from using grants and loans to subsidize Huawei or ZTE.
“The threat Huawei and ZTE pose to our national security is too great to ignore. This amendment will help keep Americans’ private information out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, and I’m pleased it will be included in the NDAA,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, who co-sponsored the amendment with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Cotton chairs the Senate AirLand Subcommittee.
The manager’s package and massive NDAA are likely to pass the Senate, but the language would still have to survive bicameral negotiations to reconcile the bill with its House counterpart.
Senate debate on the NDAA was expected to continue Tuesday.