Chuck Schumer facing intense pressure as House overwhelmingly passes bill to force TikTok sale

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will face intense pressure to hold a vote on TikTok’s future in the coming days after House lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to pass a bipartisan bill that could result in an outright ban of the popular China-owned video sharing app, sources told The Post.

Schumer has yet to reveal if he will hold a Senate vote on the bill – which forces TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance to divest within six months or be banned in the US.

House lawmakers on Wednesday passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act in a 352-65 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has remained noncommittal about a potential vote on the TikTok bill. AP
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has remained noncommittal about a potential vote on the TikTok bill. AP

The House’s decisive and bipartisan tally, which easily cleared a required two-thirds majority for passage – adds more pressure on Schumer to have the Senate act, experts told The Post.

However, it remains unclear if the bill would achieve the same level of support in the upper chamber as it did in the House.

“It’s hard to ignore such a lopsided vote as we saw in the House today if you’re Schumer,” said Matt Gorman, a political consultant former senior adviser to Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential campaign. “I have a hard time, in light of the overwhelming House vote, to see how it’s politically tenable to withhold – especially when Biden has already said he’d sign it.”

Ahead of the vote, an official who has been lobbying Congress to pass the legislation told The Post that a clear margin of victory in the House could push Schumer to take up the legislation. For now, the majority leader’s stance on the issue remains an open question on Capitol Hill.

TikTok has called the bill a de facto ban. AP
TikTok has called the bill a de facto ban. AP

“No one really knows his view,” the source said. “I think he hasn’t decided.”

President Biden has already signaled he would sign the House bill if it makes it to his desk, while his GOP challenger Donald Trump surprised his own party’s China hawks by indicating he is against a TikTok ban because it would make Facebook parent Meta more powerful.

TikTok, whose CEO Shou Zi Chew answers to the app’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance, has called the bill a de facto ban — and is already reportedly preparing to wage a no-holds-barred legal battle if it becomes law.

The bill appeared to the backing of President Biden’s Justice Department, with deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco helping to craft its language to head off TikTok’s expected legal war to block the legislation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Behind the scenes, you clearly have a lot of support from the Justice Department for some kind of forced sale,” added a well-connected Democratic source.

Schumer was noncommital when asked on Wednesday about the House’s passage of the bill, stating that the “Senate will review the legislation when it comes over from the House” with no indication of a timeframe.

A day earlier, the New York Democrat said he would consult with “relevant committee chairmen to see what their views would be.”

Schumer’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment on Wednesday.

If Schumer does bring the bill up for a vote, it’s currently unclear whether it would garner enough support to pass the Senate, where lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about its potential implications for freedom of speech.

Several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Grahan, Rand Paul, Todd Young and Thom Tillis, have either said they are unsure about the House’s bill or were outright against it.

The House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. Getty Images
The House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. Getty Images

At the same time, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) issued a joint statement in favor of the bill, saying they were “encouraged by today’s strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law.”

“I tend to think Schumer’s going to sit on it for a little while,” said a former Treasury Department official with Hill experience who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With Biden and Trump on opposite sides of the debate, Schumer is likely weighing the political ramifications of the bill ahead of the 2024 election and the impact it could have on key Senate races – such as those of Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is pictured. REUTERS
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is pictured. REUTERS

Schumer also needs to make sure he has enough votes to pass the bill before bringing it to the floor and risking an embarrassing loss.

“If it does come up for a vote in the Senate, it’ll have to pass, because you just can’t have a bill like this out there being tough on China where you don’t get enough members,” the ex-Treasury official added.