Visitors pass in front of the Chinese telecom giant ZTE booth February 26 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Last week, ZTE came to an agreement with the US Commerce Department that will lift a ban that prevents it from buying parts from US suppliers.
As Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) puts it, "I would expect that there wouldn't be a ZTE". "Given their repeated violations of USA law, we can not trust them to respect USA national security, and so it's vital we hold them accountable and pass this amendment".
The Senate's moves represent a sweeping rebuke of President Donald Trump's push to negotiate a settlement with ZTE, which went against the Commerce Department's initial ban.
"These companies have direct links to the Chinese government and Communist Party".
"The Chinese government uses these companies for espionage and intellectual property theft, posing a direct threat to our national security and endangering the American people and our economy", said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another chief backer of the amendment.
The move enraged Republicans and Democrats who said ZTE not only worked with Iran and North Korea in violation of US sanctions, but is a threat to national security, offering Chinese intelligence operatives a way to spy on the USA through ZTE products.
Since the language is tucked into a larger defense bill, Trump would have no choice but to pass it.
ZTE, whose survival has been threatened by the ban, secured the lifeline settlement from the Trump administration on Thursday.
Despite bipartisan support for the measure, Republicans are divided over whether it is wise to cross the president on this matter - and it is not clear that the effort to stymie Trump's deal will make it to the final version of the defense bill.
Senators proposed a rollback and announced Monday that this will be included as part of the new defense policy bill the chamber began debating. Among other things, it would restore penalties on ZTE for violating USA export controls and bar US government agencies from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from the Chinese company.
Republicans hoping to avoid a direct clash with the White House over the ZTE deal are eyeing that reconciliation process to mitigate the Senate's latest step.
But today, via The Wall Street Journal, Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle introduced legislation into a popular defense bill that would reimpose the original punishments on ZTE, overruling Trump's deal.
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