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House passes legislation that could ban TikTok in the US amid high-stakes vote on foreign aid

By Brian Fung, CNN

Washington (CNN) — A potential US ban against TikTok took a major step toward becoming reality on Saturday as House lawmakers approved a hot-button bill targeting the app as part of a wide-ranging aid package for Israel and Ukraine.

The bipartisan vote of 360-58 marks the latest defeat for TikTok in Washington, as the embattled social media company with 170 million US users fights for survival under its current ownership by ByteDance, its Chinese parent company.

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

By attaching the TikTok bill to funding for Ukrainian military equipment and Israeli missile defense, House Republicans put the pressure on Senate lawmakers to consider the whole package in a single up-or-down vote.

Policy analysts expect the Senate to take up the aid package quickly, giving it high odds of passage. And President Joe Biden has previously said he would sign the TikTok legislation if it reaches his desk.

The fast-tracking of the TikTok bill shows how policy priorities outside the company’s control have merged to create a potent and potentially devastating outcome for an app that’s beloved by many young Americans but that US officials say is a national security risk.

The version of the bill approved Saturday would, if signed, give TikTok 270 days to find a new owner, up from the roughly six months contemplated under prior versions of the legislation. And the bill also gives the White House an option to extend that deadline another 90 days if the president determines there’s progress toward a sale.

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

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually,” TikTok said in a post on X on Wednesday.

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

Until this week, Senate lawmakers have been divided over the House’s proposal for a forced sale of TikTok. That shifted somewhat once the House unveiled its latest draft featuring a longer deadline. And in the days leading up to the House vote on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the urgency of approving the foreign aid. On Saturday, Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor that there is a tentative agreement for the chamber to take up the foreign aid package on Tuesday.

All of that suggests a reasonably high likelihood the TikTok bill will pass, said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at the market research firm Cowen Inc. Gallant estimates the odds of Senate passage at 80%.

“We believe TikTok is unlikely to get stripped from the larger package,” Gallant wrote in a research note Friday, adding that the Senate is likely to take up the legislation within one to two weeks, though Senate leaders have indicated it could be passed even sooner.

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