‘We need to be very careful’: House GOP split on TikTok ban

‘We need to be very careful’: House GOP split on TikTok ban

In the upper chamber, one Republican just blocked another from fast-tracking a ban on TikTok

In the lower, House Republicans are at a loss for how to respond to a matter that runs their anti-CCP stance up against their free speech and limited government principles.

And while House Republicans have been heavily pushing a unified front after the frenzied speaker’s vote, what became clear during DailyMail.com’s conversations with nearly two dozen of them is that leadership has not come to a consensus on the politically dicey matter.

House GOP aides admitted that rank-and-file members have been left in the dark on how to respond to the dangers of TikTok.

‘I think we have to be very careful about this and I’m not going to get in front of our members here,’ House Majority Whip Tom Emmer told DailyMail.com in an interview. 

The typically aggressive GOP conference — which has been on a legislative blitz since gaining power four months ago — must now figure out how to navigate an application used by 150 million Americans but linked to an adversarial regime. 

And on Wednesday two GOP heavyweights in the Senate butted heads when Sen. Josh Hawley, Mo., tried to get unanimous consent to pass his bill prohibiting TikTok from operating in the U.S., but libertarian-minded Rand Paul, Ky., thwarted his efforts, citing First Amendment concerns and the Constitution’s ban on Congress declaring a party guilty of a crime.  

Sen. Rand Paul thwarted Sen. Josh Hawley’s efforts to get unanimous consent to ban TikTok on the Senate floor 

In the lower chamber, House Republicans are at a loss for how to respond to a matter that runs their anti-CCP stance up against their free speech and limited government principles

‘Is it a First Amendment question we’re talking about?,’ also wondered California Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa of a ban.  

‘I’m wrestling with that a little bit. I think it’s a market choice people want to make when they use it, but I think a lot of people are wasting a lot of time playing around on their phone with TikTok.’  

‘If it was turned over to a different party — if Elon Musk bought it — I don’t see a problem,’ he added. 

‘I’m not big on a TikTok ban,’ said freshman Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga. ‘The fact that it’s owned by CCP bothers me. The fact that it’s used to convey the wrong message to our children bothers me, but this is where parenting comes in.’ 

He likened banning the app to the nation’s 1920s-era ban on alcohol.  

‘We need to be willing to make decisions for ourselves, because we’ve tried that in the past with prohibition — that was not widely accepted.’ 

Over the weekend, Speaker Kevin McCarthy put out a tweet saying the House ‘will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party,’ though did not spell out what that could look like. 

Rep. Dusty Johnson, chair of the centrist Republican Main Street Caucus, said he was still looking into what sort of restrictions he will support. 

‘Obviously telling private citizens they can’t download a private app on a private device is an extraordinary step and not one that our nation should take lightly.’ 

Others were more hawkish on doing away with the video-sharing platform after an Energy and Commerce hearing earlier this month with CEO Shou Zi Chew.

‘After the hearing last week and hearing from constituents, I am for a TikTok ban,’ said Energy and Commerce Rep. John Joyce, R-Pa. ‘Right to Privacy is an inherent part of the rights of American citizens. The TikTok agenda is not.’

‘I think we have to go down to a point of banning TikTok … at least a partial ban,’ said Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa. 

Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., who admitted three Gen Z daughters probably use TikTok, said he is in favor of a ban. ‘We need to explain to young people what are the national security concerns.’ 

TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have taken up an aggressive offense on Capitol Hill — spending $5.4 million in 2022 on lobbying over a team of 43 in-house lobbyists. 

They’ve hired a swelling cadre of Washington insiders to convince lawmakers their $1.5 billion ‘Project Texas’ will allay national security concerns by walling off U.S. data within the U.S. – but most lawmakers remain unconvinced. 

‘Please rename your project. Texas is not the appropriate name,’ Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, said at a hearing with CEO Shou Zi Chew. ‘We stand for freedom and transparency and we don’t want your project.’ 

On the other side of the aisle, House Democrats have been largely cagey about where they stand as well – their reliance on the young voter share leaving them even hesitant to come out for a ban. A handful of progressive members like New York Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have come out in defense of TikTok. 

Lawmakers who want to move on legislation have not yet coalesced around a single bill. 

The Senate’s bipartisan RESTRICT Act is now drawing conservative concerns of executive overreach – the bill would allow the executive branch to ban apps or other online communications it deems linked to foreign adversaries like China. 

Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul’s DATA Act would require the White House to report back to Congress whether ‘reasonable grounds exist’ to ban TikTok and to move forward if so. While that bill has already moved out of committee, opponents say it’s rushed. 

Another bill amounts to an outright ban — the Anti-Social CCP Act — and is sponsored by Republican Mike Gallagher, Wis., and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, Calif., leaders of the subcommittee on China competition. That bill, which is being led in the Senate by Intel ranking member Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would force CCP-linked parent company ByteDance to sell off TikTok, which Beijing has said it would not allow to happen, or get rid of the app in the U.S. 

The Biden White House has been elusive on where it stands, emphasizing that a national security review is ongoing. President Biden has, however, endorsed the RESTRICT Act that would give more power to his Commerce Department over banning TikTok and other technologies. 

TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have taken up an aggressive offense on Capitol Hill — spending $5.4 million in 2022 on lobbying over a team of 43 in-house lobbyists

Other social media companies like Facebook’s Meta and Google’s Alphabet have seized on the moment and launched their own assaults on TikTok in Congress – in hopes they can seize control of the market once TikTok is gone. 

‘For data practices, for user privacy, for user safety, for national security breach concerns, they need to be looking at every platform,’ Sacha Haworth, executive director of Tech Oversight Project, told DailyMail.com. ‘The Big Four monopolies have also pursued market share in countries like China.’

‘The lobbying against TikTok and the lobbying for direct and outright ban on TikTok is coming from these platforms as well,’ she said. ‘They would love nothing more than to have the outright banned which would just give them more space to develop their own competitive product, because they don’t like competing.’ 

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