USA lawmakers have attacked Washington's agreement with ZTE and plan legislation to roll it back, citing intelligence warnings that ZTE poses a national security threat.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was on Capitol Hill on Monday evening to speak with senators behind closed doors about the details of the ZTE deal, in a meeting that began shortly after the decision to include the amendment blocking the president's deal was announced.
ZTE agreed to pay $1.4 billion in total penalties, including a lump sum payment of $1 billion and a suspended penalty of $400 million, and replace its board. Trump's administration struck a deal with ZTE last Thursday, which allowed the company to continue buying components from the USA, under supervision, with a $1 billion fine.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of the amendment's co-sponsors, said that if it passes, ZTE will go out of business.
ZTE, whose survival has been threatened by the ban, secured the lifeline settlement from the Trump administration on Thursday. So if the Senate measure passes, the two chambers will then have to reconcile their bills and send it to Trump to sign into law.
The Senate is due to vote as soon as this week on legislation that would block the settlement agreement, included as an amendment to a must-pass defence policy bill.
Lawmakers said they were shocked Mr. Trump was going soft, after all the tough talk of cracking down on China during the presidential campaign. "What you are seeing is a bipartisan reaction against letting ZTE off the hook" he said. "For me, it was more than that". Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.
"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.
That's why Rubio along with Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are advocating in favor of the original penalties - banning ZTE from United States suppliers, including its more important one, Qualcomm. All members of ZTE's leadership at or above the senior vice president level also must be terminated, along with any executive or officer tied to the wrongdoing.
We've come to expect the unexpected from Trump, but would he veto a defense bill just to save his ZTE deal?"It is the strictest and largest fine that has ever been brought by the Commerce Department". "We'll see if it does" get through Congress, Ross said in an interview in Washington on Tuesday. ZTE then ceased major operations.
"I and obviously every other senator believes the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for their behavior", Cotton said.