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TikTok Bill to Be Bundled With Aid to Ukraine and Israel, House Speaker Indicates

The House on Wednesday made a new push to pass legislation that would require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States, accelerating efforts to disrupt the popular social media app.

Speaker Mike Johnson said he intended to pair the measure, a modified version of a standalone bill the House passed last month, with foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and in Taiwan.

Although the new legislation would still require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app to owners who have resolved national security concerns, it includes an option to extend the sales deadline to nine months from the original six months , according to the text of the law. legislation released by House leadership. The president could extend the deadline for another 90 days if progress toward a sale is made.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are expected to vote Saturday on a package of legislation that includes banning TikTok and other bills popular with Republicans, a move intended to get lawmakers to vote for foreign aid. If the package passes, the measures would be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could be voted on soon after. President Biden said he would sign the TikTok legislation if it reaches his desk.

The move “to integrate TikTok is certainly unusual, but it could be successful,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for financial services firm TD Cowen. He added that “it’s a bit of a brinkmanship” to try to force an up or down vote without further negotiation with the Senate.

The new effort is the most aggressive yet by lawmakers to wrest TikTok from its Chinese ownership on national security grounds. They raise the possibility of Beijing demanding that TikTok provide the data of American users or using the application for propaganda purposes. The House’s previous bill faced skepticism in the Senate, fearing it would not withstand a legal challenge.

TikTok said national security concerns were unfair and that it had spent more than $1 billion on a detailed plan for its U.S. operations that would compartmentalize user data and offer surveillance by third party of its content recommendations.

TikTok exerts significant influence on culture and politics and is used by 170 million people each month in the United States. The company said it has nearly 7,000 employees in the United States.

TikTok rejected the call for its divestment and said the bill would ban the app.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the guise of significant foreign and humanitarian aid to once again pass a ban bill,” Alex Haurek, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement Wednesday. communicated. He said the bill would undermine the free speech rights of 170 million Americans and seven million small businesses and eliminate a company that has contributed billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement that she was “very pleased that Chairman Johnson and the House leadership have incorporated my recommendation to extend the ByteDance divestment period ” and that she supported the “updated legislation”. »

Uncertainty over whether the Senate would take up the legislation passed by the House in March sparked an aggressive lobbying effort in the Senate and weeks of pressure on senators to advance the bill. By pairing the TikTok legislation with high-profile aid to Ukraine and Israel, House leaders could force the Senate’s hand.

If the measure is signed into law, it risks facing weeks or months of legal challenges. Federal judges blocked a 2020 attempt by President Donald J. Trump to ban TikTok or force its sale. Last year, a federal judge temporarily blocked a statewide ban on TikTok in Montana from taking effect, preventing the first ban of its kind in the country.

Other challenges remain, including the possibility that Beijing will block the sale of TikTok. The application is expected to command a high sales price that would be out of reach for many potential buyers.

The campaign to force the sale of TikTok has brought together lawmakers and administration officials who share national security concerns. The White House said it helped lawmakers draft the legislation passed by the House in March.

Officials from the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have raised concerns with lawmakers in the House and Senate, fueling efforts to pass the bill. Parts of these briefings are still classified.

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