Senate passes military funding bill that would reimpose sanctions on Chinese telecom ZTE

Giulia Marchi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Signage is displayed at the ZTE headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on Monday, June 4, 2018.

The Senate easily passed a military funding bill that would reimpose sanctions on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, challenging a controversial deal negotiated by the Trump administration to save the company from possible bankruptcy.

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, passed with 85 votes in favor and just 10 against. The bill would reimpose a sales ban that prevents ZTE from buying components from U.S. companies.

The Senate version will now be sent to conference committee to iron out differences with a version passed by the House of Representatives in May.

It’s not yet clear whether the provision that would slap sanctions back on ZTE will make it out of the conference period and arrive on President Donald Trump‘s desk.

Trump administration officials sought to work with Senate leaders to change the languageof the defense bill. The administration said it preferred the House’s version, which did not include the provision on ZTE.

The White House could still push for changes when House and Senate leaders meet to reconcile the two versions of the bill.

In April, the Commerce Department banned ZTE from buying U.S. components, saying the company had violated a settlement reached over illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea.

But in May, Trump reversed course and vowed to protect ZTE jobs in China — an announcement that confounded lawmakers.

Under the deal struck with ZTE and the Commerce Department under its current secretary, Wilbur Ross, ZTE would pay a $1 billion fine and change some of its leadership in exchange for the U.S. lifting sanctions on the company.

In a joint statement following the Senate bill’s passage, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton and Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Chuck Schumer said they are “heartened that both parties made it clear that protecting American jobs and national security must come first when making deals with countries like China, which has a history of having little regard for either.”

They added: “It is vital that our colleagues in the House keep this bipartisan provision in the bill as it heads towards a conference.”

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