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Senate sides with Trump, votes down GOP plan to expand national security oversight

Thursday , June 14, 2018 - 11:01 AM

Erica Werner

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

The Senate sided with the Trump administration to vote down a GOP plan that would have given Congress greater oversight over deals between foreign and U.S. firms that could affect national security.

The legislation, pushed by by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., failed to clear a procedural hurdle when the Senate blocked it with a 35-to-62 vote. Sixty “yes” votes would have been required for the measure to advance.

The vote was another instance of the Senate declining to assert authority over Trump administration decision-making on trade-related issues. Earlier this week, GOP leaders blocked an amendment by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would have given Congress veto power over certain tariff decisions by the administration.

And a fight is looming over the Senate’s attempt to enact tough penalties opposed by the administration on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. That legislation has been included in the National Defense Authorization Act, but the White House announced on Wednesday that it intends to try to kill the ZTE measure when a final compromise defense bill is written by House and Senate negotiators.

The Toomey legislation Thursday involved the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, an inter-agency committee chaired by the Treasury secretary that conducts national security reviews of attempted takeovers of U.S. firms by foreign companies. Toomey wanted to give Congress a vote on major CFIUS decisions.

“It’s a simple question of whether we think that we ought to be accountable, that we ought to take authority for the legislative authority we delegate,” Toomey argued ahead of the vote that. “A ‘no’ vote is really a vote to shirk our own responsibility.”

Talking points circulated by the Trump administration to Senate offices argued that Toomey’s legislation “could potentially result in CFIUS being unable to establish regulations, thereby undermining national security.”

And senators of both parties sided with the White House. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has been pushing legislation to expand the jurisdiction of CFIUS, said a defense bill dealing with national security was not the appropriate place for Toomey’s amendment.

“I never dreamed that we would do that in a national security context,” Cornyn said, before voting “no.”

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