Rubio: Congress Will Have Supermajority to Block Trump’s Deal on ZTE

Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) said a bill to block Chinese telecommunications equipment company ZTE Corp. from operating in the U.S. would have a supermajority in Congress to override a potential veto by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has attempted to broker a deal that will allow ZTE Corp to remain in business after paying a large fine and changing its management.

Partial transcript as follows:

BRENNAN: You have been vocal about what you think is China outmaneuvering the U.S. on trade. On North Korea as well, you have raised your concerns.

But, specifically, I want to ask you about this deal with Chinese telecom company ZTE.

RUBIO: Right.

BRENNAN: You have been leading the charge against it. President Trump says he’s got a deal in place to help save this company that’s been accused of being a national security threat to the United States.

Why isn’t the White House proposal sufficient to meet your concerns?

RUBIO: So, I talked to the president for over half-an-hour on Friday night. And I think I have gotten to the crux of the difference between his administration and myself and others on our view on this.

I think, for the president, he’s viewing the ZTE issue as a company that broke sanctions, and he wants to impose sanctions on them and penalties that are stronger than anyone has ever seen before.

BRENNAN: A $1.3 billion fine, he said.

RUBIO: Yes, correct.

And this was just a company that did something wrong and needed to be punished, the president is right. The difference is, I don’t view this just as a ZTE issue.

I view it in the broader context of China that has — that is trying to overtake the United States. They do it by deeboing our intelligence — our intellectual property. They steal all of our stuff, as I said.

And then there has to be consequences for that. And the only thing China is going to respond to is consequential actions over a sustained period of time. And putting a company like ZTE out of business is the kind of consequential action that Russia will finally — that China will finally see that we are taking this stuff seriously.

And that is the difference of opinion. I don’t just view ZTE issue through ZTE alone. I view it in the broader context of what China is trying to do, overtake the United States by stealing and by cheating. And they’re not going to stop until they know there are real consequences for doing it. And…

BRENNAN: But what does that mean? It sounds like this is a done deal. Can Congress do anything to block the transaction?

RUBIO: Sure.

Well, first of all, one of the things I hope Congress will do is not only put companies — not even allow Chinese telecom companies to operate the United States. It’s not just ZTE. It’s Huawei. All of them depend on U.S. semiconductors.

None of these companies should be operating in this country, none of them. They are used for espionage. They are part of the supply chain, whether it’s routers or anything else. They embed stuff in there that could be used to spy against us, not just for national security.

That’s how they steal corporate secrets. That’s how they transfer technology. If they can’t force you to do it through a business deal, they steal it from you. And all of a sudden, they can do what we can do, but they didn’t spend any money to innovate it. And then they can surpass us.

And we’re not going to let that happen through theft, or we shouldn’t. And that’s why we should not have any Chinese telecom companies operating in the U.S.

BRENNAN: The president going to sign that bill you propose?

RUBIO: Well, I believe it will have a supermajority.

I think most members of Congress have come to understand the threat China poses. And I think there’s a growing commitment in Congress to do something about what China is trying to do to the United States. And this is a good place to start, as I said. And I think we will have a supermajority to do it.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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