US Senate not moving to fast-track House bill for TikTok divestiture

US Senate not moving to fast-track House bill for TikTok divestiture
US Senate not moving to fast-track House bill for TikTok divestiture

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A number of US senators want the chamber to take its time in deciding whether to back a House of Representatives bill that would force Chinese-based ByteDance to divest short video app TikTok within six months or face a ban. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, March 15 — A number of US senators want the chamber to take its time in deciding whether to back a House of Representatives bill that would force Chinese-based ByteDance to divest short video app TikTok within six months or face a ban.

The House voted 352-65 on Wednesday, just eight days after the proposal was introduced. There is broad support in the Senate for taking action to address national security threats from foreign apps like TikTok but no agreement on the right approach.

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell said in an interview with Reuters she wants legislation to address broad concerns about foreign apps that will hold up in court and is not sure the House bill goes far enough.

“We’ll probably have a better idea in a week what we think the options are,” Cantwell said. “Of course we want to the strongest possible tool and we want it to be the most robust tool we can get.” Cantwell said she has thought about holding hearings.

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Senator Ron Wyden, a leading Democrat on tech issues, said he is still reviewing the House bill and has “serious concerns about any app that gives the Chinese government access to Americans’ private data. I’ll also say this: history teaches us that when lawmakers rush to legislate on tech and social media, mistakes get made.”

Senator Ted Cruz, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, told Bloomberg News the bill should be open to a “full amendment process,” which could significantly delay any action.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said only the Senate will review the legislation — and gave no timeline for action.

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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was on Capitol Hill for a second day of meetings with senators on Thursday. He said in a video posted Wednesday on TikTok that has gotten more than 25 million views in less than a day that the legislation if signed into law “will lead to a ban on TikTok in the United States... and would take billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses. It will put 300,000 American jobs at risk.”

This week, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin expressed concerns about a TikTok ban. “Cutting out a large group of young voters is not the best-known strategy for re-election,” Durbin told reporters.

The House bill has won the backing of some key senators including Senate Intelligence committee chair Mark Warner and the top Republican on the panel Marco Rubio

The pair said they “look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law”.

The lopsided vote means senators should move quickly, said House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“The overwhelming vote today is a strong signal to the Senate that they need to act,” she said.

Some senators say they oppose the House bill including Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee but many others have expressed support for acting quickly. — Reuters

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