The Senate is on the verge of directly undercutting a key piece of President Donald Trump's trade negotiations with China, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers successfully pushed for the inclusion of a bill to undo a deal to save Chinese telecom ZTE.
The resumption came after ZTE agreed to pay a fine of US$1.4 billion and change its management, as part of an agreement to avoid a seven-year ban from the US.
"It's only prudent that no one in the federal government use their equipment or services and that they receive no taxpayer dollars", Sen. "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".
While ZTE almost shut down, it got a reprieve from President Donald J. Trump, who wanted the Commerce Department to lift the ban.
"These companies have direct links to the Chinese government and Communist Party". The intelligence community suspects the company's devices are mechanisms for espionage that can be remotely tracked and used to steal intellectual property. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another chief backer of the amendment.
USA lawmakers have attacked the agreement and planned legislation to roll it back, citing intelligence warnings that ZTE poses a national security threat.
Cotton and Rubio, along with Sen.
"The Senate is saying loudly and in a bipartisan fashion that the president is dead wrong to back off on ZTE", said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
Since the language is tucked into a larger defense bill, Trump would have no choice but to pass it.
The successful inclusion of an amendment to block the deal marks the latest twist in a fight that has roiled Capitol Hill and national security officials - all as it became a cornerstone piece of Trump's China trade dealmaking strategy. Since the bill has bi-partisan support, rules tucked into the bill's language are much harder to prevent, even for the President. It would block the deal by retroactively reinstating financial penalties and upholding the ban on ZTE selling products to the USA government.
The bill is just a few steps away from reaching the White House.
"We're just continuing the conversation", said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., added language to the National Defense Authorization Act to reinstate a ban on ZTE buying USA components. "I want to keep the conversation going".