Pelosi backs adding TikTok government device ban to funding bill

Pelosi backs adding TikTok government device ban to funding bill
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announces that she will remain in Congress but will not run for re-election as Speaker after Republicans were projected to win control of the House of Representatives, on the floor of the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 17, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports adding legislation passed by the Senate this week, which would bar federal government employees from using Chinese-owned TikTok on government-owned devices, to a government funding bill.

A spokesman for Pelosi said she supports including the TikTok provision in legislation to fund the government that the House of Representatives is set to take up next week.

Pelosi’s support, along with that of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, significantly boosts the chances the provision will be adopted next week.

The Senate on Wednesday voted on a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Josh Hawley to bar federal employees from using the Chinese-owned video app on government-owned devices. It was the latest action by U.S. lawmakers to crack down on Chinese companies amid national security fears that Beijing could use them to spy on Americans.

TikTok has said the concerns are largely fueled by misinformation. The legislation would not affect the more than 100 million Americans who use TikTok on private or company-owned devices.

Many federal agencies, including the White House and the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments, already ban TikTok from government-owned devices.

If the House approves its TikTok provision, the Senate would have to add a similar ban to its version of the spending bill before sending it on to President Joe Biden for his signature.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday declined to say whether Biden would support TikTok legislation. “We’re going to let Congress move forward with their process,” she said.

Emily Kilcrease, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former deputy assistant U.S. trade representative, said she viewed “the move on the Hill mostly as sign of frustration that we haven’t figured out something to do about this after so many years. … So I think this is more a sign of political frustration than a meaningful new restriction.”

Also on Friday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said the state was joining New Hampshire, Wyoming, Georgia, North Dakota, Idaho and Iowa this week and a growing number of U.S. states in banning ByteDance Ltd-owned TikTok from state-owned devices amid concerns that data could be passed on to the Chinese government.

In 2020, Republican then-President Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok and to ban other transactions that would have effectively blocked the app’s use in the United States but lost a series of court battles over the measure.

The U.S. government Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, has for months sought to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of U.S. TikTok users, but it appears no deal will be reached before year’s end.