WASHINGTON – U.S. senators who back a clampdown on China’s ZTE Corp. said on Tuesday they intend to fight for the measure, and urged fellow lawmakers not to give in to White House pressure to give up on the legislation.
In a rare break with President Donald Trump’s policy, the Republican-led Senate voted 85-10 on Monday for a sweeping defense policy bill that included a provision that would kill the Trump administration’s agreement to allow ZTE to resume business with U.S. suppliers.
Trump is expected to lobby hard against the amendment to the defense bill, one of the few major pieces of legislation Congress passes every year. He has scheduled a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday where Senate aides said he would discuss the issue.
Shares of the Chinese telecommunications firm and its U.S. business partners fell after the bill passed, although the measure could still be killed when Senate and House of Representatives lawmakers meet in the coming weeks to forge a final, compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s top Democrat, praised the bill’s passage in the Senate on Tuesday.
Noting that the ZTE measure was backed by some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, including some who are very close to the White House, as well as its most liberal Democrats, Schumer said he was “heartened” by support for the amendment.
He urged members of the House, where Trump’s fellow Republicans control a much larger majority than in the Senate, to support the ZTE measure.
“They should not let President Trump pressure them into reducing American security, both economic and defense,” Schumer said. “They should not let President Trump pressure them into allowing ZTE to spy on every one of us, which they could well do.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican Trump ally and co-author of the ZTE amendment, said he was pleased it was adopted. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he would be part of the conference forging the compromise NDAA between now and the end of July.
“We’ll have to reconcile our provisions with the House. I’m hopeful that we can move them in our direction, but that’ll be the subject of negotiations in the coming weeks,” Cotton said on the “Hugh Hewitt” radio show.
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