Maria Cantwell, Once a Skeptic, Announces Support for Modified TikTok Bill

Washington Democrat has faced scrutiny over her TikTok ties

Sen. Maria Cantwell (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), formerly a leading critic of the House’s sell-or-ban bill against TikTok, has announced her support for the legislation now that it includes her proposal to give ByteDance a longer divestment window.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Cantwell said she supports the updated legislation, which includes extending the divestment period requiring TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, to divest from its American operations or face a ban from six months to a year. As the head of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, Cantwell has jurisdiction over the bill and whether it eventually moves forward to a floor vote in the upper chamber.

“I’m very happy that Speaker Johnson and House leaders incorporated my recommendation to extend the ByteDance divestment period from six months to a year,” said Cantwell. “As I’ve said, extending the divestment period is necessary to ensure there is enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done. I support this updated legislation.”

The Washington Democrat has faced scrutiny over her ties to the Chinese owned video-sharing app, with several of her former senior aides working for TikTok as it lobbies lawmakers to kill the legislation. Cantwell has also received thousands of dollars in contributions to her reelection campaign from different employees on TikTok’s payroll. Financial disclosures reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show that a TikTok lobbyist contributed $2,000 to Cantwell’s campaign just days after the House passed its bipartisan bill in March.

Chinese diplomats have also been quietly meeting with congressional staff to lobby against the legislation, despite TikTok denying having a relationship with the Chinese government. Cantwell did not respond to a request for comment.

The revised TikTok proposal is tied to a broader foreign aid package that would provide $26.4 billion to support Israel, $60.8 billion to bolster Ukraine, and $8.1 billion to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. The House is expected to vote on the measure on Saturday, and if it passes would move to the Senate. In response, TikTok issued a statement on Wednesday accusing the House of using the foreign aid package as a cover to “jam through” the bill.

“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 business, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually,” TikTok said.

Last week Cantwell told reporters that the bill requiring ByteDance to divest from TikTok or risk a ban “could be better.” In particular, Cantwell said the House bill might not stand up to legal scrutiny if passed. However, a constitutional law firm that scrutinized the legislation disagreed and found that the divestment bill “is consistent with the United States Constitution.” The firm additionally determined that the House bill “regulates conduct—the foreign ownership of a covered platform—not speech, so the First Amendment likely does not apply.”

Unlike her colleagues, Cantwell has also stressed patience when it comes to pushing the House bill forward. After a group of bipartisan senators attended a classified briefing on TikTok last month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) said the app “is a gun pointed at Americans’ heads,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) added that “there was a deep concern about the threat of TikTok from both sides of the aisle” and called on the Senate to “expeditiously” advance the legislation.

Cantwell’s cautious approach to the House bill not only differs from some of her Senate colleagues but also contrasts with President Joe Biden’s commitment to sign the bill if it reaches his desk. John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, has also urged the Senate to pass the House bill “swiftly.”

“We want to see divestiture from this Chinese company because we are concerned, as every American ought to be concerned, about data security and what ByteDance and what the Chinese Communist Party could do with the information that they can glean off of Americans’ use of the application,” Kirby said last month.

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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