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House progressives signal opposition to TikTok bill

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The bill that could lead to TikTok getting blocked from app stores is meeting some resistance from Hill progressives, many of whom have embraced the social media platform to reach younger constituents.

The legislation is set to come up for a House vote Wednesday under a process that requires a two-thirds majority for passage. Some Republicans are also not supporting the bill, especially after former President Donald Trump publicly opposed it, though it’s still expected to pass the House. Both Republican and Democrat House leaders have signaled support for it, as well as the White House.

“We’re steamrolling this bill through without listening to stakeholders, without listening to people who depend on TikTok for their livelihood, including a lot of small businesses,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the youngest member of the House, who also warned of the political impact the legislation could have with young voters who have embraced the social network.

The legislation in the House would require that a business found to be controlled by a foreign adversary must be divested within 180 days — specifically singling out Beijing-based ByteDance, which owns TikTok.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Monday the legislation “came up so quickly” that members were still considering how they would vote for it. The caucus has yet to determine its formal position on the legislation, though Jayapal suggested that’s unlikely to happen at this point due to the quick vote timing.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of the progressive “squad,” said she was still reviewing the legislation but was generally opposed to a ban of the social media app. Sponsors of the bill have been quick to clarify that that legislation is not a ban, since it would only block the TikTok from app stores if the parent company refused to divest.

“Certainly there are things we should be considering when it comes to data harvesting and privacy … for all social media, for all big tech, not just limited to TikTok,” she said in a brief interview. “I also have serious concerns regarding the First Amendment, but I also think this is simply just fomenting anti-Asian and Chinese sentiment.”

Many of the lawmakers attended an all-member classified briefing Tuesday on TikTok’s security threats with Justice Department and intelligence officials. It’s not clear if the meeting changed many liberals’ minds.

“I didn’t support it before the classified briefing, and there was nothing that changed my mind,” said Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who predicted opposition to the bill was “actually growing.”

Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) are among other progressives who said on Tuesday that they plan to vote against it.

“I didn’t get to attend this one briefing, that happened the day before [the vote], that wasn’t even an hour long, because I was in the committee hearing with Special Counsel [Robert] Hur,” Bush said in an interview.

Not every progressive is in the “no” column, however. Some indicated they could support the legislation, citing privacy concerns.

“I would say we should be protecting everybody’s data privacy in general, but that might just be a statement,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was still going over the bill. “This is a good first step.”

If the bill does manage to pass the House, it will likely run into trouble in the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to taking it up. Progressives in that chamber are also not eager to get behind legislation that would ban the entire app. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an interview that Congress should regulate social media but not specifically target one in particular.