Senate passes defence bill, battle looms with Trump over China firm

WASHINGTON: The US Senate passed a $716 billion defence policy bill on Monday, backing President Donald Trump’s call for a bigger, stronger military but setting up a potential battle with the White House over Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE Corp.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 85-10 for the annual National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA, which authorises US military spending but is generally used as a vehicle for a broad range of policy matters.
Before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one already passed by the House of Representatives. That compromise measure must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump.
The fiscal 2019 Senate version of the NDAA authorises $639 billion in base defence spending, for such things as buying weapons, ships and aircraft and paying the troops, with an additional $69 billion to fund ongoing conflicts.
This year, the Senate included an amendment that would kill the Trump administration’s agreement to allow ZTE to resume business with US suppliers. That ZTE provision is not included in the House version of the NDAA.
While strongly supported by some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as some Democrats, the measure is opposed by the White House and some of its close Republican allies, who control the House as well as the Senate.
It could face a difficult path to being included in the final NDAA.
That bill is more likely to include a much less stringent provision, included in the House bill, that would bar the Defence Department from dealing with any entity using telecommunications equipment or services from ZTE or another Chinese company, Huawei Technologies.
Republicans and Democrats have expressed national security concerns about ZTE after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who had conspired to evade US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.The Senate version of the NDAA also seeks to strengthen the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. — Reuters