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Gallagher Krishnamoorthi

W.H. works with Hill to ban TikTok

The Biden White House is backing a bipartisan bill that could lead to a ban on the hugely popular social media app TikTok in the United States.

The legislation, which we scooped yesterday, would force ByteDance to sell TikTok if it wants to remain in U.S. app stores. The bill is set for a markup Thursday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee following a classified hearing with officials from the FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Not only is the Biden administration sending these officials to brief the committee but the White House provided lawmakers with technical assistance when they were drafting the bill, according to several sources familiar with the effort.

Having support from the Biden administration — which has undergone a sharp internal debate over TikTok’s future, according to multiple Democratic and GOP sources on the Hill — is big. Previous congressional efforts to ban TikTok didn’t have White House backing. Congress was able to pass legislation removing TikTok from government phones, but that was it.

Yet there will still be opposition from both the right and left on any TikTok bill, so this is no slam dunk despite the White House support. We’ll also note that President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign just got on TikTok several weeks ago.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Speaker Mike Johnson and GOP leaders will back this proposal, which she hopes to bring to the floor soon after Thursday’s markup.

“It’s a very narrow bill that we’ve been working with the China Select Committee very closely on,” McMorris Rodgers told us Tuesday night. The Washington Republican said Johnson and other House GOP leaders support the measure.

But the speaker’s office told us they don’t yet have a view on the bill.

The legislation was authored by Reps. Michael Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the chair and ranking member of the China Select Committee. There’s a broad bipartisan group of members cosponsoring it as well.

Here’s a spokesperson for the National Security Council on the legislation:

TikTok, which is headquartered in Singapore and backed by Chinese investors, has been in the crosshairs of Congress for more than a year. National security hawks say the Chinese government has undue influence over and insight into the app’s data.

But the politics here are tricky for both parties. First off, TikTok is hugely popular, especially with younger Americans. Banning the app would be a kick in the gut for its gigantic user base. Secondly, TikTok has made a First Amendment argument — that proponents of a ban are taking away the rights of people to communicate on their platform of choice.

— John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman

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