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Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok.

After TikTok, are more Big Tech hits coming?

While tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid was at the center of the national security supplemental Congress passed this week, it’s a potential TikTok ban that’s capturing many Americans’ attention.

The social media giant could be banned from the United States this time next year if its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, doesn’t sell it. The enactment of the divest-or-ban measure is a major moment for a Congress that has routinely whiffed the last decade when it comes to cracking down on Big Tech.

“Our batting record on Big Tech — we’re batting zero,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) lamented. “We’ve not done privacy, we’ve not done kids’ online safety, we’ve not done low-hanging fruit [bills]… Taking this first step is really important.”

Warner would know. The Virginia Democrat, to hear him tell it, has “had the kitchen sink thrown at” him by TikTok and other tech giants that have been in his committee’s crosshairs over the years.

The Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election yielded disturbing findings about Moscow’s use of social media to sow discord in the United States. It led in part to the Honest Ads Act, which would create new disclosure rules for online political ads. That bill never went anywhere.

Antitrust legislation targeting tech giants Amazon, Google and Meta also stalled out in both chambers thanks to heavy lobbying by the companies.

In an interview this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Speaker Mike Johnson added the TikTok bill to the foreign aid package “because he thought he needed that to help get Republican votes… I wasn’t going to tell him not to. Gotta pass the supplemental.”

The political tide shifted dramatically earlier this month when Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who was skeptical of the House-drafted TikTok bill, embraced it after the timeframe for divestiture was extended from six months to one year.

The politics of TikTok: President Joe Biden signed the TikTok bill into law when he approved the $95 billion foreign aid package. Former President Donald Trump claims he opposes the TikTok effort and is attacking Biden for backing it.

“The Democrats wear this one. Whatever political upsides or downsides come from it, Joe Biden’s going to have to own,” said Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), a close Trump ally. “Because you have one candidate who supported it and one candidate who opposed it.”

But Trump repeatedly pushed for a TikTok ban or divestiture as president. And the legislation that was passed this week received overwhelming support from Hill Republicans in both chambers. Johnson championed the bill in the House, for example, while Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been a strong supporter of the effort in the Senate.

Yet Trump sees it as a political advantage for him to portray Biden as the one trying to ban TikTok because Trump thinks he can win over some of the younger voters who use the platform.

On the horizon: Schumer also reiterated his desire to find a path forward on overwhelmingly popular bipartisan legislation aimed at bolstering online safety for children, as well as a new data privacy bill.

“We’re making very good progress,” Schumer told us this week.

There aren’t very many legislative vehicles left this calendar year, but it’s possible that these bills could ride alongside the FAA’s reauthorization. That needs to be cleared by May 10. Schumer filed cloture on the House’s five-year reauthorization bill earlier this week.

— Andrew Desiderio

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.