House passes legislation that could ban TikTok in US amid high vote against foreign aid

House passes legislation that could ban TikTok in US amid high vote against foreign aid

A possible US ban on TikTok took a big step toward becoming a reality on Saturday when House lawmakers passed a hot-button bill targeting the app as part of a sweeping aid package for Israel and Ukraine.

The bipartisan 360-58 vote marked TikTok’s latest defeat in Washington, as the struggling social media company with 170 million US users struggles to survive under its current ownership by ByteDance, its Chinese parent company.

The bill passed by the House this weekend closely resembles an earlier version passed in March that would have banned TikTok from US app stores unless it found a new owner, and quickly.

By attaching the TikTok bill to fund Ukraine’s military equipment and Israel’s missile defense, House Republicans put pressure on Senate lawmakers to consider the entire package in a single up-or-down vote.

Policy analysts expect the Senate to take up the aid package quickly, giving it a high chance of passage. And President Joe Biden previously said he would sign TikTok into law if it made it to his desk.

Fast-tracking the TikTok bill shows how policy priorities beyond the company’s control have combined to create powerful and potentially devastating results for an app that many young Americans love but that US officials say poses a national security risk.

The version of the bill passed on Saturday would, if signed, give TikTok 270 days to find a new owner, up from the roughly six months contemplated under the previous version of the law. And the bill also gives the White House the option to extend that deadline another 90 days if the president determines there is progress toward a sale.

TikTok has been vocally opposed to the bill. For weeks, TikTok has waged a fierce lobbying campaign in an effort to defeat the law, arguing it violates its users’ First Amendment rights and threatens small businesses.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives used the cover of vital foreign and humanitarian aid to once again block a banning bill that would trample on the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, destroy 7 million businesses, and shut down a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, every year,” TikTok said in a post on X on Wednesday.

TikTok has hinted it could sue to block the House’s divestment legislation, telling users in March that it plans to keep fighting, “including (by) exercising our legal rights.” A court challenge to the law will set the stage for a high-stakes battle over Americans’ right to access digital information.

Until this week, Senate lawmakers were split on the House’s proposal for a forced sale of TikTok. That changed somewhat when the House presented its latest draft featuring a longer deadline. And in the days leading up to Saturday’s House vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the urgency of approving foreign aid. On Saturday, Schumer said in a statement on the Senate floor that there was a tentative agreement for the chamber to accept the foreign aid package on Tuesday.

All of that points to a strong likelihood that the TikTok bill will pass, said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at market research firm Cowen Inc. Gallant estimates the likelihood of Senate approval at 80%.

“We believe TikTok is unlikely to be stripped of the larger package,” Gallant wrote in a research note on Friday, adding that the Senate may take up the legislation within one to two weeks, although Senate leaders have indicated it could be passed even earlier. .

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