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Cantwell, Raimondo talk TikTok as Senate path remains unclear

News: Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo spoke by phone earlier this week about Congress’ efforts to address TikTok, among other issues, according to two people briefed on the conversation.

The phone call, which hasn’t been previously reported, comes as Senate leaders have yet to decide how to handle the House-passed bill that forces TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company or face a U.S. ban.

It also comes amid questions about whether the Biden administration will make a more concerted legislative push for the House-passed bill, which is at risk of stalling out absent a real pressure campaign from the White House.

During the call with Cantwell, Raimondo reiterated the administration’s view that Congress should act to counter the national security threats posed by TikTok, according to the sources. Raimondo has generally praised the House effort in the past.

Biden has said he would sign the House bill if it reaches his desk, and White House officials have talked it up in recent press briefings.

What’s next? A classified briefing for a select group of senators Wednesday left more questions than answers about whether the House’s bill will ever make it to Biden’s desk.

While senators expressed grave concerns about TikTok after the briefing, the path forward is unclear as two powerful committee chairs appear to be split.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) told reporters Wednesday that if Congress doesn’t act this year, “we missed a huge opportunity.” Warner added that “there’s a reason” why a House committee unanimously approved the legislation after receiving the same classified briefing. Warner endorsed that bill shortly after the House passed it.

“How many times do you get 352 votes for anything in the House?” Warner said.

Meanwhile, Cantwell is signaling she wants to pump the brakes so that senators can better understand the impacts of the legislation and avoid unintended consequences.

Cantwell also suggested holding a joint hearing with Warner’s panel — something supporters of the House bill fear would likely sap momentum from the effort.

“It’s important to get it right,” Cantwell told reporters. “In this institution, we’re full of people who want to promote things just to promote them. But they don’t have the cause-and-effect that we need.”

Close to the vest: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer isn’t tipping his hand. Schumer said Wednesday he’s still talking with fellow Democrats about the best path forward. The New York Democrat has not committed to putting a bill on the floor but has expressed support for taking action against TikTok in the past.

Some senators have proposed modest changes to the House bill that wouldn’t alter the main thrust of it. For example, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) suggested lengthening the window of time for TikTok to be sold before a U.S. ban is triggered.

— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan

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