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Washington Roundup: House OKs TikTok bill; Biden, Trump become presumptive nominees

U.S. President Joe Biden and former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are pictured in a combination photo. (OSV News photo/Leah Millis/Amr Alfiky, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The House March 13 passed a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban of the social media platform TikTok over its ties to China and lawmakers’ concerns about spyware, unless that platform’s parent company, ByteDance, divests.

Also, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump became the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, respectively, after both were projected to win the requisite number of delegates to secure their parties’ presidential nominations at their conventions this summer.

House approves legislation that could lead to TikTok ban

The House-passed legislation would force the sale of TikTok or ban it entirely from U.S. devices if it refused, over concerns the app poses an intelligence risk given its ties to China’s government, which Chinese officials have denied. Although the White House and President Joe Biden have signaled their support of the measure, its future is uncertain in the Senate.

Prior to the vote, TikTok prompted users to call their members of Congress to oppose the bill — but the effort appears to have backfired, as lawmakers expressed frustration with the volume and types of calls their offices received, and the bill was approved on a wide bipartisan margin in a 352-65 vote.

If signed into law, the bill would block TikTok in U.S. app stores unless the social media platform severs ties with ByteDance, which lawmakers say has ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The bill also includes similar prohibitions for other apps “controlled by foreign adversary companies.”

In a video posted on social media, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, a native of Singapore, said the legislation “will lead to a ban on TikTok in the United States.”

“We will not stop fighting and advocating for you. We will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights, to protect this amazing platform that we have built with you,” Chew said.

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Catholic from Wisconsin, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., respectively chairman and ranking member of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, said in a joint statement that “a bipartisan group of members came together to address the grave national security risk posed by TikTok.”

“We speak with one voice and carry the same message as the Directors of the DIA, FBI, CIA, NSA, and the head of U.S. Cyber Command — TikTok cannot continue to operate in the United States under its current ownership structure,” said the lawmakers, who introduced the legislation, said. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to pass this critical, bipartisan legislation and deliver it to the President’s desk.”

About one-third of U.S. adults say they use TikTok, according to the Pew Research Center.

Biden, Trump face likely rematch election

Although polls have consistently shown most U.S. voters didn’t want a Trump-Biden rematch election, both men won their respective primaries, making it likely they will both once again be on the ballot this November.

Trump’s critics within his party argue he is ill-situated to defeat Biden, having previously lost to him in 2020, and point to his legal woes, including felony charges, as well as his baseless claims of systemic election fraud in 2020, as a hindrance in the general election. However, his allies argue voters concerned about Biden’s age and his handling of the economy will help Trump return to the presidency.

Biden also has his own critics within the Democratic coalition, with some expressing concern over his age and others voicing frustration over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, including going as far to vote “uncommitted” in the primaries. Biden’s allies point to low unemployment, Republicans’ relative underperformance in the 2022 midterm elections, and threats to democracy — at home and abroad — as among their arguments as to why he should win reelection.

Only one president, Grover Cleveland, has served nonconsecutive terms in the White House. Others including Martin Van Buren tried and failed to return.

If reelected, Biden would be the first Catholic to win two terms in the White House.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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