Congress ponders TikTok ban after CEO's grilling
(The Hill) — Discussions of a potential ban on TikTok in the United States are expected to heat up this week after the CEO of the social media app was grilled by House members during a blockbuster hearing last week.
Congressional leaders from both chambers and parties have backed bills that could lead to the Chinese-owned app being banned, while Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has explicitly said he would support a national ban on TikTok.
“The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party,” McCarthy said in a tweet Sunday.
What that legislation will look like remains unclear, but will likely be a topic of conversation among lawmakers this week.
Also this week, House and Senate committees are slated to hold hearings on recent bank failures, after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were seized by regulators earlier this month. The collapses spooked markets and raised concerns about future bank runs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold an oversight hearing this week featuring testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — his first appearance before the 118th Congress. A number of GOP House members have expressed a desire to impeach Mayorkas.
Additionally, former interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is set to testify at a Senate hearing on the company’s alleged union busting.
On the legislative front, the House is slated to take up a major energy package — given the esteemed H.R. 1 nomenclature — and the Senate is expected to hold a final vote on legislation to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
TikTok in the crosshairs
Fallout from last week’s heated TikTok hearing will likely continue to reverberate on Capitol Hill this week, as lawmakers look toward legislation targeting the app, which is used by some 150 million Americans.
McCarthy on Sunday said the House would move ahead with legislation pertaining to TikTok, writing on Twitter, “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 told reporters last week that he supported Congress moving to ban the app, but said he wanted to “make sure we get it right.”
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, during which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed concerns about national security threats, data privacy, the spread of misinformation and safety for minors.
TikTok is owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance, a fact that has fueled worries over data privacy and national security. However, TikTok’s chief operating officer blasted the hearing, saying it “felt rooted in xenophobia.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.), the top Democrat on the House select committee on competition with China, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the hearing “created more concerns” regarding the popular social media app.
A number of TikTok-related bills have been introduced this Congress, including one bipartisan measure that would give the federal government the ability to ban the app. The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act (RESTRICT Act) would direct the Commerce Department to review and mitigate risks posed by technology that has ties to foreign adversaries, including China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Cuba and Venezuela.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the bill, which currently has nearly two dozen bipartisan co-sponsors. The White House endorsed the measure earlier this month, and Warner on Sunday said the bill has received “strong interest from the House.”
“I think they wanted to get through their hearing. And, clearly, while I appreciated Mr. Chew’s testimony, he just couldn’t answer the basic question,” Warner told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told the CBS show, “We’d love to see that passed by the Congress so that the president can have additional tools and authorities,” referring to the RESTRICT Act.
Separately, House Republicans earlier this month advanced a separate measure — titled the Deterring America’s Technology Adversaries Act (DATA Act) — which would allow the president to possibly ban software applications, including TikTok.
It specifically calls for amending an existing exemption under the Berman Amendments — which restrict the president from regulating informational materials to encourage the exchange of ideas across country — so it does not pertain to “sensitive personal data.”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the sponsor of the bill, told “Fox News Sunday” this weekend, “I think Congress is going to move forward on this.”
“One thing you saw from the hearings in a bipartisan way that both sides of the aisle were standing together saying this is a threat to our children and we need to stop it,” he added.
Hearings on Silicon Valley Bank collapse
Senate and House panels are set to hold hearings this week on this month’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, marking the first congressional events looking into the failures.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Recent Bank Failures and the Federal Regulatory Response.” Those slated to testify are Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Martin Gruenberg, Federal Reserve System Board of Governors Vice Chairman of Supervision Michael Barr, and Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang.
On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee is slated to hold a hearing titled “The Federal Regulators’ Response to Recent Bank Failures,” featuring the same trio of witnesses.
Federal regulators took over Silicon Valley Bank on March 10 after a significant run on the bank amid liquidity issues. Two days later, state regulators seized Signature Bank in New York.
The collapse of the two banks sparked a blame game on Capitol Hill. Democrats generally cited a 2018 deregulation bill that former President Donald Trump signed into law, despite the fact that 49 Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with Democrats voted for the measure. Some Republicans, on the other hand, blamed the collapse on Silicon Valley Bank pursuing “woke” strategies, while others have pointed to inflation and raised questions about regulators.
The failures have also prompted discussion about what action Congress can take in response to the collapses.
“The House Financial Services Committee is committed to getting to the bottom of the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) wrote in a statement.
“This hearing will allow us to begin to understand why and how these banks failed,” the pair continued. “We will conduct this hearing without fear or favor to get the answers the American people deserve.”
Mayorkas to testify before Senate panel
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is heading to Capitol Hill this week for his first hearing before the 118th Congress. The DHS secretary is slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing.
The hearing comes as Republican lawmakers, particularly those in the House, have harshly criticized Mayorkas, arguing that he has not made enough of an effort to secure the southern border and decrease the influx of migrants into the U.S.
In February, a coalition of House Republicans introduced a second impeachment article against Mayorkas. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the sponsor, accused him of being the “chief architect of the migration and drug invasion at our southern border,” and said the increase in migration was a “willful and intentional” violation of the secretary’s oath of office.
House Republicans, however, have been split on how to move ahead on Mayorkas.
Former Starbucks CEO Schultz to testify
Former Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz is scheduled to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee this week on the coffee chain’s treatment of union organizing efforts.
The hearing, titled “No Company Is Above the Law: The Need to End Illegal Union Busting at Starbucks,” is scheduled to begin on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Schultz’s testimony comes after weeks of back-and-forth between the executive and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has accused the company of not bargaining in good faith after a number of employees working at shops across the country have unionized.
More than 350 of the company’s stores have voted to unionize since the first one, in Buffalo, N.Y., voted to do so in December 2021. Starbucks has tried to crack down on the unionizing efforts by utilizing methods that, according to the National Labor Relations Board, are unlawful.
Sanders announced earlier this month that the Senate panel would vote on issuing Schultz a subpoena. But before the vote, Schultz agreed to testify. Last week, Schultz — who was set to step down at the beginning of next month — announced that he was stepping down immediately, two weeks earlier than planned.
“I look forward to hearing from Mr. Schultz as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with the unions,” Sanders wrote in a statement last week.
House to take up energy package; Senate expected to hold final vote on AUMF
The House this week is scheduled to consider a major energy package, titled the Lower Energy Costs Act. The legislation received the title of H.R. 1, signaling that it is a top priority for the House Republican conference.
The package aims to, broadly speaking, accelerate the approval process for energy projects. It also includes provisions that zero in on bolstering mining and domestic production of oil and gas.
The office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the measure “reduces expenses across the board for American families by unleashing American energy and restoring our energy independence” in a floor lookout released Sunday night.
In the upper chamber, senators this week are expected to hold a final vote on a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the Invasion of Iraq and the 1991 Gulf War AUMF. The Senate advanced the legislation in a 68-27 vote earlier this month.
A cloture vote is scheduled for Monday evening, and then the chamber could vote on a number of amendments. Final passage could come on Tuesday or Wednesday, sending the measure to the House.
McCarthy signaled support for the legislation last week, telling reporters during the House GOP retreat in Orlando, “I’m into it.”
“I don’t have a problem repealing that,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will work from home this week after announcing this weekend that he completed inpatient therapy following a fall that left him with a concussion.
Senate, House committee hearings
A number of Senate and House committees are scheduled to hold hearings this week on various topics, including the situation at the southern border and the 2022 midterm elections.
- House Oversight and Accountability’s Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services: “FDA Oversight Part I: The Infant Formula Shortage”
- When: Tuesday at 10 a.m.
- Witness: Frank Yiannas, Former deputy commissioner of food policy and response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- House Oversight and Accountability’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic: “The Consequences of School Closures: Intended and Unintended”
- When: Tuesday at 10 a.m.
- Witnesses: David Zwei, author and investigative journalist at The Atlantic, New York Magazine, The Free Press; Tracy Beth Høeg, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, epidemiologist, private practice physician; Virginia Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum
- House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability: “Biden’s Growing Border Crisis: Death, Drugs, and Disorder on the Northern Border”
- When: Tuesday at 10 a.m.
- Panel I: Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.)
- Panel II: Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council; Robert Quinn, commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Safety; Laura Dawson, executive director of the Future Borders Coalition; Andrew R. Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy and the Center for Immigration Studies
- House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials: “Government Response to East Palestine: Ensuring Safety and Transparency for the Community”
- When: Tuesday at 10 a.m.
- Witnesses: Debra Shore, regional administrator for Region Five at the Environmental Protection Agency; Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; Wesley J. Vins, health commissioner of the Columbiana County (Ohio) General Health District
- House Administration Committee: “2022 Midterms Look Back Series: Government Voter Suppression in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania”
- When: Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
- Witnesses, per source: 2022 GOP House candidate Jim Bognet; Donald Palmer, commissioner Election Assistance Commission.
- House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs: “Examining Progressivism’s Impact on an All-Volunteer Military”
- When: Tuesday at 2 p.m.
- Witnesses: Jeremy Hunt, media fellow at the Hudson Institute; Brent Sadler, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense; Meaghan Mobbs, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum
- House Committee on Oversight and Accountability: “Overdue Oversight of the Capital City: Part I”
- When: Wednesday at 10 a.m.
- Witnesses: D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen; D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee; D.C. Police Union Chairman Greggory Pemberton
- House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability of Ukraine Assistance”
- When: Wednesday at 10 a.m.
- Witnesses: Diana R. Shaw, deputy inspector general performing the duties of the Inspector General at the State Department; Nicole L. Angarella, acting deputy inspector general, performing the duties of the Inspector General at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Robert P. Storch, inspector general at the Defense Department
- House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce: “Taking the Buzzer Beater to the Bank: Protecting College Athletes’ NIL Dealmaking Rights”
- When: Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
- House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch: “Budget Hearing – Fiscal Year 2024 Request for the United States Capitol Police”
- When: Wednesday at 11 a.m.
- Witness: U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger
- Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government: Examine the Missouri v. Biden case
- When: Thursday at 9 a.m.
- Witnesses: Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.); Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry; D. John Sauer, special assistant attorney general at the Louisiana Department of Justice