Senators signal bipartisan backing for TikTok divestment from China


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Senators on both sides of the aisle have signaled their support for taking action to force the divestment of social media app TikTok from Chinese-based ByteDance, under the threat of a U.S. ban.

The move comes following a vote on Wednesday that sailed through the House with a 352-65 bipartisan split, with one member abstaining. It would force Chinese divestment from TikTok or see the app banned. Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed concerns over ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok, stressing the national security threat is serious. 

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he was pleased to see the House pass the bill, adding that he looks forward to seeing the Senate proceed with it. “I have been explicit and unequivocal about my concerns about TikTok, both that it is used by the Chinese Communist Party to engage in espionage and surveillance and that it is used to push incredibly harmful propaganda, particularly on our young people,” he told Fox News Digital.  

The TikTok logo

The icon for the video sharing TikTok app is seen on a smartphone. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she wants to see the app forced to divest: “I do want to see us divest — force them to divest. We shouldn’t have those ties with Communist China,” she said. 

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., echoed that sentiment, saying, “It has to be addressed.”

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who serve as chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, applauded the House’s passage of the TikTok bill in a joint statement on Wednesday, saying, “We are united in our concern about the national security threat posed by TikTok.” They added that they hope to see the measure passed in the Senate and signed by President Biden.  

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner and Vice Chair Marco Rubio

Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, looks on as ranking member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questions witnesses during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning worldwide threats on Capitol Hill  in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The top senators on the intelligence committee have been sounding the alarm on the social media app for years. Warner, a Democrat, claimed in 2022 that “President Trump was right” when he sought to ban TikTok with an executive order in 2020 that was ultimately blocked by the courts. 

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During the annual Senate Intel worldwide threats hearing with various national security officials earlier this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed to Rubio that ByteDance, “the parent company is, for all intents and purposes, beholden to the CCP.”

“I think what we’re hearing is genuine risk,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo. The senator noted he is hopeful for the Senate to take action, particularly because of the large bipartisan support evidenced by the House’s vote. 

Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during a news conference to discuss legislation that would temporarily halt U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., added he also wants to see TikTok required to be divested from China so that “national security and information [and] data on ordinary Americans can be protected.”

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Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said that he sees TikTok as “a national security threat,” adding that he wants “to make sure that we can sever that relationship” with China. 

Despite the high level of concern over TikTok among members of both parties, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was vague about the bill’s fate in the upper chamber on Wednesday, and did not offer any clues on whether it would be fast-tracked in the body. 

“The Senate will review the legislation when it comes over from the House,” he said in a statement following the measure’s passage. 

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Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer speaks

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks following a Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images))

In 2020, Schumer notably wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “A US company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe.”

“With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government,” he wrote at the time. 

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The House’s bill was read twice on Thursday and then referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, meaning it isn’t being fast-tracked for swift passage. 

Ted Cruz during Senate hearing

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attends a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in the Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on May 11, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Cruz said there should be “a full and open amendment process” — a criticism of the Senate’s recent proclivity for skipping procedure. 

However, there are concerns over the extra time afforded to TikTok and tech lobbyists as consideration of the measure is dragged out. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., criticized the flow of money from TikTok and other tech lobbyists in Congress while talking to Fox News Digital, claiming that “there ought to be a sign right there that says ‘property of Big Tech’” as he gestured toward the Senate chamber. 

Sen. Josh Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions Colleen Shogan, nominee to be archivist of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, about her social media postings during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee full committee hearing on Shogan’s nomination on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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Hawley said he hoped to see debate and a vote on the bill sometime soon. 

On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Chew told Fox News correspondent Aishah Hasnie that his team had reviewed the House bill and called it “not feasible.”

“This bill, in all the details you can read, go through the details, this would lead to banning of the app in the country,” he claimed. 

Hawley posted on X, writing, “The answer is, the CCP won’t allow a sale. Which tells you how valuable TikTok is to them.”

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While there appeared to be broad support for the House bill addressing TikTok, a smaller but somewhat bipartisan group of lawmakers came out against it. That group included Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who warned that it could violate various constitutional amendments and increase the size and scope of the federal government. 



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