Senators on both sides of the aisle introduced legislation that would block the deal.
Since the language is tucked into a larger defense bill, Trump would have no choice but to pass it. The Chinese smartphone and network equipment maker had been caught selling goods and services to North Korea and Iran, violating US sanctions. The ban would essentially cripple ZTE to the point of potential bankruptcy. After Trump announced his deal with China and ZTE last week, Senate leaders said they would seek to reverse it.
ZTE is back in business: What now?
Once through the Senate, the bill would move to a conference committee with the House, which passed its own version of the bill without the amendment related to ZTE.
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The ZTE leniency also rubbed senators wrong since it came about the same time the president slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from US allies including Canada and the European Union.
Legislators said they are planning to block the ZTE deal in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a big defense policy bill the Senate is due to debate this week. However, it wouldn't be the first time the President chose the unexpected route. Senators on both sides of the aisle criticized Trump for calling on the Commerce Department to reverse its position, with many saying ZTE poses a risk to United States national security. Although $1.4 billion is not a small amount of money, it sets the stage for other companies to also violate trade laws under the assumption that, at worst, they'll have to pay a hefty fine. "The death penalty is an appropriate punishment for their behavior".
In February, U.S. intelligence officials warned Americans not to use smartphones made by ZTE or Huawei - another Chinese telecom company - as the communication technology could be compromised "to gain positions of power inside our telecommunication networks that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure".
"Great news! Our bipartisan amendment restoring penalties on #ZTE is included in the #NDAA bill the Senate will be advancing to later this evening", Senator Marco Rubio said in a Twitter post.
Its cosponsors are Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Blumenthal of CT and Bill Nelson of Florida. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a conservative Republican, and Sen.