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Senators Said to Eye New Vehicle to Block Trump’s ZTE Deal

  • Bill to fund Commerce Department could carry ZTE rider
  • ZTE provision already in the defense authorization bill

Senators of both parties are looking at an appropriations bill as a possible vehicle to block the Trump administration’s deal with the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, congressional aides said.

While language to block the deal remains in a must-pass military policy bill, foes of the agreement also want to include the provision in the spending bill that funds the Commerce Department, which in April banned ZTE from buying and selling products in the U.S. after it was found to have broken the U.S. embargo against Iran.

The Senate’s fiscal 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill is to be marked up Thursday. The House version (H.R. 5952) could come to the House floor within the next two weeks, other lawmakers said.

ZTE wasn’t discussed Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations C-J-S Subcommittee approved the $63 billion bill. The panel hasn’t yet released the text of that bill.

Discussions about adding appropriations language to block the ZTE deal have been taking place even as the Senate agreed to insert the provision in the massive National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515).

U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Restore ZTE Penalties in Defense Bill

The settlement announced by the Commerce Department would allow ZTE to resume buying and selling products in the U.S. but only after it pays a $1 billion fine and puts $400 million more in escrow for 10 years to cover any future violations. But language the Senate put in the NDAA bill would block the deal by retroactively reinstating financial penalties and keep the ban on ZTE selling products to the U.S. government.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran(R-Kan.) and other members of the panel at a May 16 hearing that he’s “deeply concerned” about foreign companies like ZTE gaining access to the U.S. telecommunications network.

Moran subsequently raised his own concerns about the ZTE deal during a May 22 hearing on the Treasury Department’s budget. Moran questioned the Trump administration’s stance towards ZTE and said the company appeared to pose a threat to national security.

“I want the United States to be protected and one of the ways that we can do so is with enforcement of our laws and the sanctions that come with them,” Moran told Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Ognanovich in Washington at nognanov@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; John R. Kirkland at jkirkland@bgov.com

The post Senators Said to Eye New Vehicle to Block Trump’s ZTE Deal appeared first on Bloomberg Government.

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