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House’s bipartisan bid to rein in TikTok looks set to stall in the Senate

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The House is on the cusp of what could prove an overwhelming bipartisan vote to effectively ban TikTok in the U.S. The Senate will prove more challenging.

House GOP leaders are expected to hold Wednesday vote on the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” despite a vocal campaign by TikTok users to kill the proposal, on top of Donald Trump’s recent criticism of it. The bipartisan legislation would require ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell its stake in the app in order to ensure continued availability in the U.S.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared the bill unanimously even as public backlash grew — giving supporters hope that it will pass on the House floor. Bipartisan opposition is brewing in the Senate, though.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Monday night that he would object to a request to pass the bill unanimously, requiring Democratic leaders to spend more serious amounts of floor time ahead of a roll-call vote on it. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer didn’t make any commitments about putting the TikTok bill on the floor.

“I’ve got to talk to my committee chairs,” he told POLITICO on Monday.

At least one of those chairs — Senate Commerce Committee chief Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) — is interested in other legislation. She wants the GUARD Act, an alternate bill that would allow the Department of Commerce to regulate TikTok and other foreign apps without banning them fully.

“I’m glad they brought up a subject but we got to get a real solution,” Cantwell said of the House bill. “That one, I don’t think will make it all the way through.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) summed up the dynamics: “There’s a coalition of us who are very much in favor of this, but there’s also an entrenched coalition of people who don’t want this,” he said. “So just based on past history, I’m skeptical that it’ll get floor time. But we’ll see.”

Senators on both sides of the aisle also raised concerns about the specificity of the House bill, which explicitly targets TikTok.

GOP Sen. Todd Young (Ind.) said “rather than naming specific companies … we should instead articulate what functionality is of concern, what countries or entities are of greatest concern.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading progressive, said the legislation “shouldn’t be about pulling out one particular social media outlet” and that there should be “curbs in place on social media across the board.”

President Joe Biden has said he’ll sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. Trump, meanwhile, originally supported the bill but turned against it on Monday. The former president argued in a CNBC interview that banning TikTok would only help Facebook, which he considers “to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.”

Still, some senators don’t seem entirely closed off to the legislation. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said he welcomes it. Other say they’re still reviewing the details.

“I favor restricting it when it comes to government communication networks,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who said he’s “still looking through the various issues relating to what this bill does.”

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) also said he’s still reviewing details of the bill but that he’s “generally sympathetic to the idea [that] TikTok is sort of a [Chinese Communist Party] spy app.”

House members are expected to receive a briefing about the bill on Tuesday from officials in Biden administration, which supports the measure.

“It’s important that the members have an opportunity to get this classified briefing from Department of Justice and other intelligence agencies around what they see as the threat of of apps that are owned by foreign adversaries,” Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said.

Olivia Beavers and Rebecca Kern contributed.