White House ‘strongly objects’ to parts of defense policy bill

Matt Saintsing
June 28, 2018 - 6:14 pm

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The White House this week voiced its objection to multiple measures in the Senate-passed version of the annual defense policy bill that, in part, aims to block President Donald Trump’s deal to give the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE new life.

In a 12-page statement of policy on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the White House “strongly objects” to the ZTE measure as it would “disturb the traditional allocation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.”

The provision in the Senate NDAA keeps in place punishments that were imposed on ZTE after they admitted to violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. It was added after the Commerce Department said it had agreed to lift the penalties on the telecommunications conglomerate.

However, the House version of the NDAA does not include such a provision. In order for it to become law, the two versions must be identical.

In a letter to Trump on Tuesday, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called ZTE a “state-backed enterprise that is ultimately loyal not to its shareholders, but to the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government.”

The two senators sent their letter to Trump just before the administration said it opposed the ZTE measure.

Other members of Congress have been pressing a crackdown on ZTE, citing potential national security concerns.

Of issue, lawmakers are worried that equipment from the Chinese telecommunications company could be used to spy on Americans. Some lawmakers, however, have voiced support for Trump’s dealings with ZTE and view it as his right in order to conduct foreign policy.

Other objections

The White House also took issue with a provision that seeks to limit U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since 2015. Where it stands right now, the United States aids the Saudis with aircraft refueling and targeting. The NDAA would require a certification that the Saudi coalition meet certain criteria before the U.S. can provide assistance.

The bill also allows for 8,639 fewer active duty troops than the administration requested, and lacks authorization for a new high-value detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to replace the one already in use.