Every issue of the Punchbowl News newsletter, including our special editions, right here at your fingertips.
Join the community, and get the morning edition delivered straight to your inbox.
Happy Thursday morning.
The Big Hearing: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Capitol Hill today. Chew’s appearance – one of the most anticipated so far this Congress – plays out against the increasingly tense relationship between China and the United States.
Even as this Energy and Commerce hearing unfolds, another House panel is scrutinizing China’s role in “fueling the deadly fentanyl crisis.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley will be asked about China’s growing military power. And there’ll be a high-profile session tonight on “The Chinese Communist Party’s Ongoing Uyghur Genocide.” That’s all in one day on the House side.
The basics: TikTok is among the most popular and controversial social media apps. Both Republicans and Democrats say the platform can be used by the Chinese government to spy on or influence Americans who think they’re simply watching videos.
TikTok argues the app is a launching pad for businesses, individuals and content creators whose voice would be muzzled if the U.S. government banned it. The company contends the Chinese government has no access to its data. Chew also pledged in his opening statement that TikTok will implement more procedures to wall off U.S. users.
But Congress is highly skeptical of the tech platform and has kicked into high gear its efforts to look into TikTok. Lawmakers are drafting several pieces of legislation to limit or ban the app. House Republican leadership has been hesitant to move legislation, preferring the requisite committees work through the issue first.
Behind the scenes: Chew has agreed to testify for 4.5 hours. The committee is expecting so many cameras and spectators that staffers turned the temperature in the room as low as it could go. If you’re planning to attend today’s session, bundle up.
Dozens of TikTok influencers with tens of millions of followers were on the Hill on Wednesday. They held a press conference and then posted videos – including from the Rotunda — urging Congress not to act against the company.
TikTok: Chew has gone on a media blitz of his own over the last few days. He did a straight-to-camera video on TikTok explaining its benefits for small business. Chew was wearing a hoodie – relatable! The Singapore-based CEO has also said that Project Texas, TikTok’s plan to hand U.S. users data over to software company Oracle, would eliminate the need to ban the app.
Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy, has led Chew’s preparation for the hearing. Beckerman was once a deputy staff director on E&C to former Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Beckerman also founded the Internet Association.
Jodi Seth, who served as an aide to the late E&C Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.), is also involved in the prep. Seth has worked for Amazon and Facebook as well.
Freddy Barnes, a former aide to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is employed by TikTok and involved in the matter, according to committee sources.
As we’ve pointed out during the past few weeks, TikTok has recently hired a number of outside lobbyists, including former California GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, a close McCarthy friend and ally. Former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) of Crossroads Strategies also lobby for TikTok.
The unique nature of this hearing: Typically, CEOs who come in front of Congress for skewerings have allies trying to defend them. TikTok’s most vocal supporter is Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). Bowman isn’t on the committee.
In short, Chew comes in facing a bipartisan chorus of TikTok skeptics. Republican and Democratic aides say they don’t expect a single lawmaker to defend the company.
Republicans: Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is expected to argue that TikTok is a unique threat to American national security and privacy and potentially harmful to children. CMR will say the short-term solution is banning TikTok in the U.S.
McMorris Rodgers will call for a national privacy law, which she has been working on with Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), ranking Democrat on Energy and Commerce. That bill will be in part aimed at ensuring other apps don’t have the ability to access or purchase Americans’ private information.
The committee has been preparing its members for the hearing for several weeks. They held a meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to further go over their strategy for the session.
CMR has an interesting take on Chew’s boast that 150 million Americans are on TikTok. Here’s a bite from her opening statement:
“When you celebrate the 150 million American users on TikTok, it emphasizes the urgency for Congress to act.
“That is 150 million Americans that CCP can collect sensitive information on, and control what we ultimately see, hear, and believe.”
And CMR will accuse TikTok of lying: “TikTok has repeatedly been caught in the lie that it does not answer to the CCP through ByteDance.” Chew and TikTok deny this claim.
Democrats: The panel’s minority told us they believe the TikTok hearing will be bipartisan, with both parties united in calling for more stringent privacy protections. But expect Democrats, led by Pallone, to pull back and say TikTok’s issues are symptoms of larger problems in the Big Tech space.
Pallone will tout the American Data Privacy and Protection Act — legislation he introduced with McMorris Rodgers last Congress — as the right way to go after social media companies.
We got a sneak peek at parts of Pallone’s statement. Here’s a selection:
“TikTok collects and compiles vast troves of valuable personal information to inform an algorithm that is able to predict with uncanny accuracy which videos will keep users scrolling – even if the content is harmful, inaccurate, or feeds destructive behavior or extremist beliefs.…
“Public outrage and mea culpas alone are not going to rein in Big Tech. Congress must enact laws protecting the American public from such online harms.”
Read more of Pallone’s statement here.
— Jake Sherman, Max Cohen and John Bresnahan
Today: Join us at 9 a.m. ET as Punchbowl News founder Anna Palmer and House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) discuss women’s access to healthcare. RSVP now to join us on the livestream (in-person RSVPs are full).
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COUNCIL
Private equity is smaller than you think. Across America private equity is investing in small businesses. From healthcare to agriculture, to manufacturing and beyond – 62% of the investments that private equity makes are in small businesses, helping unleash American companies in every community.
Read just how big an impact private equity is making in our newly released 2023 Top States & Districts Report.
INSIDE THE HOUSE GOP
SCOOP: Republican leaders have asked Jordan to delay border bill markup
News: House Republican leadership has asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to delay a planned markup of immigration and border security bills amid infighting among GOP lawmakers, according to multiple sources directly involved in the process.
The Judiciary Committee had planned to mark up as many as eight immigration and border bills next week, the chamber’s last session before the lengthy April recess.
But that markup has been delayed at the behest of the leadership. GOP sources said the markup will be put off until after the House returns in mid-April.
Jordan told us Wednesday night that he’s still working on a timeline for the bills with Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“We’re still talking about when it happens,” Jordan said, referring to his conversations with McCarthy. “I want to go as quick as we can, but we’ll see.”
Jordan said the already-drafted bills came directly from a security task force McCarthy created last Congress.
“We have eight pieces of legislation that we think makes sense and we’re going to get done as soon as we can, but we’re working with the whole conference,” Jordan added.
With just a five-seat majority, House Republicans are deeply split on how aggressive they should be in their approach to immigration and border security. Some lawmakers have expressed annoyance that the two issues often get intertwined.
Yet failure to act on securing the border and the broader issue of immigration would be a blow to McCarthy and the House Republican leadership, especially given their campaign vows to take action if they won the majority.
House Republicans continue to skewer the Biden administration for the ongoing issues at the border. This is the second time the new majority has had to pump the brakes on a package of border-related bills due to disagreements within the conference.
Several sources told us part of the problem is a simmering dispute over immigration between two Texans – GOP Reps. Chip Roy and Tony Gonzales.
The two have personal disagreements over the shape and direction of immigration policy. Multiple GOP leadership sources told us that if Jordan isn’t careful with what he pushes through his committee, Gonzales and his allies could block anything from passing the full House.
Gonzales has been publicly critical of Roy’s Border and Safety Security Act, which was supposed to be ready for consideration early this Congress. That legislation would allow the Homeland Security secretary to bar undocumented migrants from entering the country until the federal government gained “operational control” of the border.
Gonzales argues it bans amnesty for asylum seekers and has referred to it as “not Christian.” Roy rejects that claim.
Other moderate Republicans have also balked at some of the GOP’s immigration priorities, concerned a hardline approach to the issue would fall flat in purple districts and among Hispanic voters with whom the GOP has sought to make deeper inroads.
Think about the timing of this potential vote for House Republicans, too. McCarthy and party leaders are already likely to lean on moderates for politically challenging votes on spending cuts, Medicaid, the Trump tax cuts and the debt limit. This is a lot to ask members with tough races in 2024. On top of that, none of this is going anywhere in the Democratic-run Senate.
– Mica Soellner, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
SOME PERSONAL NEWS…
Punchbowl News is growing!
Interested in the intersection of business and journalism? Want to help build our fast-moving news startup? We’re excited to share that Punchbowl News is hiring for three essential and important roles: Director of Client Engagement, Growth Marketer, and Business Analyst. Read more and apply here.
And if you know somebody great, please email us at email@example.com.
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COUNCIL
62% of the investments that private equity makes are in small businesses, with 46% in companies smaller than 100 people.
Thune, No. 2 Senate GOP leader, backs Banks
News: Senate Minority Whip John Thune is endorsing Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) candidacy for the Senate, yet another GOP leader choosing sides in the Hoosier State’s primary.
Banks, a six-year veteran of the House, has already earned the endorsement of Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate Republican. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has lent his name to a fundraiser for Banks. NRSC Chair Steve Daines called Banks one of Republicans’ top recruits.
Here’s a new statement from Thune:
“Republicans need to take back the Senate so we can get our country back on track, and that work starts in Indiana. Jim Banks has a proven track record of delivering conservative results and standing up to Joe Biden and Democrats’ reckless agenda. Jim served our country honorably in Afghanistan and I’m grateful he’s raising his hand to serve in the Senate. I’m proud to endorse Jim Banks for Senate and he has my full support.”
As of now, Banks is the only Republican vying for the nomination in the deep red Hoosier State.
– Jake Sherman
… AND THERE’S MORE
Google has signed up former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) to lobby. He will lobby on “Openness and competition in online services and devices; privacy and data security issues.
Southern Company, the energy giant, has signed Cassidy & Associates to lobby on “electric grid reliability.”
Jen Daulby, the former Republican staff director on the House Administration Committee, is joining Ogilvy as a principal. Here’s the release.
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COUNCIL
Check out the States and Districts Report for Private Equity.
9 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10:30 a.m.: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other lawmakers will hold a news conference to talk about a JEC report on the GOP’s debt limit position.
10:45 a.m.: House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu will hold a news conference.
1 p.m.: Biden will hold an event marking the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
4:40 p.m.: The Bidens will leave for Andrews, where they will fly to Ottawa, Canada. Karine Jean-Pierre will brief on Air Force One.
6:40 p.m.: The Bidens will greet Mary Simon, the governor general of Canada and her husband.
8:25 p.m.: The Bidens will greet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife at the Prime Minister’s residence. They will also attend a “private gathering.”
“DeSantis Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal,’ Clarifying Earlier Comment on Ukraine,” by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan
“The DeSantis Foreign Policy: Hard Power, but With a High Bar,” by Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Kitty Bennett
“Ukraine, pumped up by Western weapons, is held back by slow deliveries,” by Siobhán O’Grady and Alex Horton in the Donetsk region, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Anastacia Galouchka in Kyiv
“House GOP demands info from former prosecutors in Trump case,” by Farnoush Amiri
“DeSantis-aligned PAC staffs up, brings on Ted Cruz’s campaign manager,” by Alex Isenstadt
“Sinema Trashes Dems: ‘Old Dudes Eating Jell-O,’” by Jonathan Martin
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images.
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COUNCIL
Private equity is smaller than you think and more important than you can imagine. Private equity builds better businesses across America, directly employs more than 11 million workers, and delivers the strongest returns to support the retirements of millions of workers. Since 2017, private equity has invested over $5 trillion dollars in nearly 40,000 companies from every sector of the economy. See the Top States & Districts Report, which ranks the country’s top twenty states and Congressional districts by total private equity capital and the number of companies receiving investment in 2022.
Crucial Capitol Hill news AM, Midday, and PM—5 times a week
Join a community of some of the most powerful people in Washington and beyond. Exclusive newsmaker events, parties, in-person and virtual briefings and more.Subscribe to Premium
The Canvass Year-End Report
And what senior aides and downtown figures believe will happen in 2023.Check it out