Cruz Places Hold on Confirming Biden’s Commerce Secretary Pick to Pressure Admin on Huawei

February 4, 2021 Updated: February 5, 2021

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday placed a hold on the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s pick for Commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, saying she has not yet clarified whether she backs keeping China-based company Huawei on a restricted trade list.

The move is likely to delay the floor vote by up to 30 hours as the Republican seeks to pressure the Biden administration to commit to policies that will fend off national security threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“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 said in a statement on Twitter.

A day earlier, Cruz voted against approving Raimondo as Commerce secretary. He said her “ethics issues and soft stance on China,” including her refusal to commit to keep Huawei on the list is “deeply troubling.”

Although the procedural action of formally placing a hold on Raimondo’s confirmation is not enough to stop the confirmation, the move can delay the procedure significantly. The informal practice notifies the majority leader that a senator may filibuster a motion or resolution.

Cruz’s action comes two days after a group of almost two dozen House Republicans, led by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement outlining the giant threat Chinese telecom equipment poses to national security.

McCaul said in a statement on Thursday that he is “pleased” Cruz agreed with him and the coalition of House Republicans.

“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.

“The Biden Administration must take this seriously,” he added. “No more delays or promises to ‘circle back.’ The American people and our allies deserve a clear and straightforward answer—will President Biden commit to keeping Huawei on the Entity List and clarify its export control policies on CCP-controlled or influenced entities?”

Raimondo, during her nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Jan. 26, vowed to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from Chinese companies but declined to commit to keeping Huawei on the blacklist.

The Trump administration placed Huawei on the Commerce Department’s “entity list”—a trade blacklist—due to national security concerns in May 2019.

Former President Donald Trump also led a global campaign to convince allies to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks. Washington has long said Huawei equipment could be exploited by China’s communist regime for espionage or to disrupt communication networks.

U.S. officials have pointed to laws in China that compel companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked. Huawei, which was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army, the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has denied these allegations.

House Foreign Affairs Committee GOP Spokesperson Leslie Shedd told The Epoch Times that there has been bipartisan support in the past to keeping Huawei on the Entity List, including prominent Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and prominent Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“Congressman McCaul, and the more than 20 House Republicans who have joined him in his call, urge these Senators to stick to their principles on this issue and demand the Biden Administration clarify their intentions for Huawei before they allow the floor vote for Governor Raimondo to occur,” Shedd said. “If it was wrong when President Trump appeared to soften on Huawei, it should also be wrong if President Biden softens on Huawei.”

Janita Kan contributed to this report.