Kevin McCarthy says House 'will be moving forward' with TikTok legislation

·4 min read
Drew Angerer

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday that lawmakers "will be moving forward" with legislation to address national security concerns surrounding TikTok after the social media giant’s CEO faced hours of hostile questioning before a congressional panel last week.

“It’s very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can’t be honest and admit what we already know to be true — China has access to TikTok user data,” McCarthy tweeted.

“The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.

McCarthy did not specify what legislation he is referring to. The House speaker last week told reporters that he would back a ban on TikTok amid the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s five-hour grilling of CEO Shou Zi Chew.

Asked last week how quickly he wants to move legislation to the floor, McCarthy replied: “I want to make sure we get it right. I think the hearing today … you see a bipartisan concern here with what’s happening on TikTok, especially what’s happening to the data for Americans.

“There’s many different ramifications here, so I think they could come together," he continued. "I’d let the committees do their work and see what the product comes out, when it gets done, we’d be able to move it.”

Had TikTok been sold to an American company before, McCarthy added, “Americans would have been safer.”

McCarthy also told NBC News last week that he spoke to Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., about his legislation that would give the commerce secretary the power to force a sale of TikTok or ban the platform nationwide.

Warner and Sen. John Thune, R-N.D., this month introduced a sweeping bill that would allow the federal government to regulate and even ban foreign-produced technology, including TikTok.

The bipartisan bill, the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or the RESTRICT Act, would give the commerce secretary broad power to regulate tech produced by six countries that have adversarial relationships with the U.S.: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

The White House supports the bill, calling it “a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans.”

Although the bill doesn’t explicitly mention TikTok, the senators who introduced it repeatedly referred to concerns that the social video app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, poses a national security threat by giving Beijing a steady stream of information about its users.

During an interview on CBS on Sunday, Warner said the bill has the support of 22 senators, with 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans backing it.

“We’ve had strong interest from the House,” Warner said, when asked how likely it is that his legislation passes in the divided congress. “I think they wanted to get through their hearing, and while I appreciated Mr. Chew’s testimony, he just couldn’t answer the basic questions at the end of the day."

The Biden administration has also threatened a potential ban on TikTok in the U.S. if the video sharing app’s Chinese owners refuse to sell their stakes in it, a source close to the company told NBC News this month. Additionally, the Justice Department and the FBI are investigating TikTok, including previously disclosed allegations that the company’s employees spied on journalists, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter said this month.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee also voted along party lines this month to advance legislation that would give Biden the authority to ban TikTok from the U.S. The bill, called the Deterring America's Technological Adversaries Act, was introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and would need to pass the full House and the Senate before Biden could sign it into law.

During his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, Chew said in his opening statement that TikTok is safe and secure and that it shouldn’t be banned. He also noted that 150 million people in the U.S. are active TikTok users.

Lawmakers at the hearing, however, appeared unswayed by his testimony and skeptical of his remarks, with a few warning him against lying to the committee.

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