A rift between the White House and the Senate over language in a manager’s amendment to the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill reversing the administration’s agreement to end sanctions on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE likely will complicate the measure’s path to enactment, but House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) on Wednesday said he is confident the issue will not block the defense policy bill from becoming law. “Our job is to try to do the best we can for the country, we obviously want to see a bill signed into law,” Thornberry said, reported CQ. “We will see what the administration’s positions are as we work our way through this, and either adjust or not adjust depending on what we think about it.”
The Senate amendment is not yet part of the underlying measure but will be voted on as part of a package of 45 amendments that have been attached to the text of the bill. The provision, which appears to have strong support within the chamber, would reinstate a seven-year ban on U.S. export sales to the company — dubbed the death penalty for ZTE — for violating U.S. law by selling equipment to Iran and North Korea.
Assuming the language is included in the Senate version of the defense bill, it likely would face skepticism from at least some House lawmakers in conference. And if it survives the conference committee, the next step would be a showdown with President Trump over whether he would veto the bill over the provision.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted down proposals to scuttle two contentious amendments to the authorization bill — one would require new or modified nuclear weapons, such as a proposed low-yield warhead, to be authorized by Congress; and the other would bar the indefinite detention without trial of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent U.S. residents.