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Senate Passes Defense Bill That Blocks Trump Administration's Deal With ZTE


A $716 billion defense policy bill easily cleared the Senate on Monday, although the legislation must still be reconciled with the version previously approved by the House.

The Senate voted 85 to 10 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes U.S. military spending for fiscal 2019.

Seven Democratic Senators, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Republican Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted against the bill.

In addition to authorizing $639 billion in base defense spending and $69 billion for ongoing conflicts, the bill includes a provision that essentially kills the Trump administration's agreement to end crippling sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp.

The bill would restore penalties on ZTE for violating export controls and prohibit government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment or services from the company.

Earlier this month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had announced an agreement lifting an order that banned ZTE from buying American products.

The agreement included a $1 billion fine against ZTE and forced the company to replace its board of directors and executive team and install a U.S.-chosen compliance team.

In a joint statement, Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., praised the inclusion of the amendment in the defense bill.

"We're 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," the senators said.

He added, "It is vital that our colleagues in the House keep this bipartisan provision in the bill as it heads towards a conference."

However, the White House is expected to push for negotiators to revise the ZTE language in a joint conference committee.

President Donald Trump has previously highlighted the fact that ZTE buys a tremendous amount of equipment from American companies.

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