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Cruz blocks Senate vote on Raimondo for Commerce Secretary over concerns about Huawei

House and Senate Republicans raised concerns about the Rhode Island governor’s comments on the Chinese telecom giant during her confirmation hearing.

Senator Ted Cruz questioned the nominee for Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, during her Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Senator Ted Cruz questioned the nominee for Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, during her Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday.Tom Williams/Associated Press

Senator Ted Cruz formally placed a hold Thursday on the Senate voting on the nomination of Gina Raimondo for Commerce secretary, saying the Rhode Island governor has not adequately clarified her position on Huawei, the Chinese telecom company.

Huawei, a massive 5G equipment manufacturer, was placed on the Commerce Department’s “entities list” under the Trump administration because of espionage concerns over its ties to the Chinese government.

“Gina Raimondo’s ethics issues and soft stance on China including her refusal to commit to keep Huawei on the Entities List is deeply troubling,” he tweeted. “That’s why I voted against advancing her nomination and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

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“I’ll lift the hold when the Biden admin commits to keep the massive Chinese Communist Party spy operation Huawei on the Entity List,” Cruz tweeted.

Cruz, along with Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Rick Scott of Florida, voted against Raimondo during the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Tuesday. The committee voted 21-3 to advance the Rhode Island governor’s nomination to the full Senate.

Raimondo had in January told the Senate committee that, if confirmed, she would “review the policy, consult with you, consult with industry, consult with our allies, and make an assessment as to what’s best for American national and economic security.”

Cruz later called her answer “troubling” and insufficient, and asked her in writing “to commit to ensuring Huawei and its subsidiaries and affiliates that are currently on the Entity List remain on the Entity List.”

“With respect to Huawei, let me be clear: telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors is a threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies,” she wrote in response. “We will ensure that American telecommunications networks do not use equipment from untrusted vendors and will work with allies to secure their telecommunications networks and make investments to expand the production of telecommunications equipment by trusted U.S. and allied companies.”

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“In addition, Huawei’s ties to China’s military, human right abuses, and theft of intellectual property have rightly been a source of bipartisan concern, regulatory action, and legislation in the United States and among U.S. partners and allies,” she continued in the written response. “I also am fully aware of and support the provisions of the FY2020 NDAA and Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Networks Act that contain restrictions on Huawei, and look forward to working closely with the Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of Defense, and Director of the FBI to ensure that administration policies and actions related Huawei reflect their national security concerns and judgements as well.”

Nearly two dozen House Republicans, led by Congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, also asked senators to block a vote on Raimondo until she had clarified her position on Huawei.

On Thursday, McCaul said in a statement that he was pleased Cruz agreed with him.

“As I have repeatedly expressed, #Huawei is not a normal telecommunications company – it is an arm of the #CCP’s military that poses a significant threat to U.S. national security and supports the CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang,” McCaul said in a statement. “The Biden Administration must take this seriously.”

Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed said in a statement that while Raimondo’s confirmation may be delayed, it would not be derailed.

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“The Governor has strong bipartisan support and she will be confirmed,” Reed said in a statement. “If Senator Cruz persists with this, he may be able to waste up to thirty hours of floor time, but his hold will be defeated through a cloture vote.”



Lylah Alphonse can be reached at lylah.alphonse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.