Senate Rebukes Trump With Vote to Block ZTE Deal

The Senate delivered a rebuke to President Donald Trump on Monday when lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation that blocks the Trump administration from scrapping tough penalties on Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE. The annual defense appropriations bill, which sailed through the Senate by a vote of 85 to 10, includes a provision that would reinstate the Commerce Department’s penalties that ban U.S. companies from selling to ZTE. The company has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Additionally, U.S. intelligence officials have warned that the company’s equipment could be used for cyber-espionage purposes on behalf of the Chinese government. But the Trump administration recently struck a trade deal with Beijing that lifts the penalties on ZTE in exchange for a fine of more than $1 billion. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were critical of that concession, and they quickly drafted an amendment to the defense bill that would reverse the administration’s decision. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) led the effort on the GOP side, with Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the leading Democrats. The legislation must now be reconciled with the House version, which does not include the ZTE provision. The White House is expected to lobby lawmakers intensely to scrap the measure from the final product that both chambers will soon consider.

—Andrew Desiderio