The Senate Banking Committee approved an amendment to block President Trump's decision to ease sanctions on ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company. The measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was added to legislation that would tighten oversight of foreign direct investment. The Senate panel passed the amendment by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 23-2.
"Both parties have come together today to strongly rebuke ZTE and the administration’s soft approach," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "This critical legislation along with the [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] reforms that it was added to are huge steps forward in our fight against the Chinese, and we should pass this legislation on the floor immediately.”
Last month, the Commerce Department banned American firms from selling components to the company for seven years. Trump backtracked earlier this month and signaled he was open to lifting the sanctions, to the chagrin of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) echoed Schumer's disappointment, noting that the U.S. gets nothing out of the ZTE situation. He is threatening "veto-proof congressional action" to keep the sanctions in place.
Sadly #China is out-negotiating the administration & winning the trade talks right now. They have avoided tariffs & got a #ZTE deal without giving up anything meaningful in return by using N.Korea talks & agriculture issues as leverage. This is #NotWinning https://t.co/5kGO3qRGfY— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 22, 2018
In addition to these lawmakers' concerns, the intelligence community has warned that lifting sanctions on ZTE will result in a national security disaster, considering the Chinese company's technology could be used to conduct surveillance on the U.S.
Trump defended his ZTE decision at the White House Tuesday, noting that the sanctions hurt American companies too. The Chinese company purchases 25 percent to 30 percent of components in its phones from U.S. companies.
Yet, he offered a compromise. Trump suggested placing a fine on ZTE of $1.3 billion and putting pressure on the company to make management changes. He also reminded the media that it was his White House that imposed sanctions in the first place.
“The proposed solution is like a wet noodle,” Schumer said of Trump's latest proposed concessions.
Again, Rubio shared similar sentiments. Fines and personnel changes will not stop "spying" and "stealing," he insisted.