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House bill gives up to a year to sell TikTok; eyes Russian assets

Measure is fourth part of package that would also provide $95.3 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific partners

Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks to reporters as he leaves a TikTok briefing in the Capitol on March 20.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks to reporters as he leaves a TikTok briefing in the Capitol on March 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Mike Johnson late on Wednesday unveiled a modified version of the previously House-passed legislation targeting TikTok that would give Chinese owner ByteDance up to a year to divest the app, an increase from the six months given in the earlier version. 

The bill, the fourth part of a package of measures released Wednesday that would also provide $95.3 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific partners, would allow TikTok owner ByteDance 270 days from the date of enactment to divest the app. The measure would also give the president the flexibility to offer a one-time extension of 90 days, bringing the total time available for ByteDance to nearly a year. 

The previous version, which the House passed March 13 in a 352-65 vote, gave the Chinese company 180 days to divest the app or see it banned from the U.S. market. The additional time for divestiture before the app would face a ban in the United States may garner broader support in the Senate. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., didn’t commit to a timeline for a floor vote on the earlier House bill. Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she was concerned the measure wouldn’t survive legal scrutiny because of the six month timeline and because it targets one company. 

But Cantwell said she was concerned about the national security implications of allowing the Chinese-owned entity to continue collecting data on 170 million American users of the TikTok app.

In a statement Wednesday, Cantwell endorsed Johnson’s updated bill: “I’m very happy that Speaker Johnson and House leaders incorporated my recommendation to extend the Byte Dance divestment period from six months to a year. 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,” she said

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the top Republican on the committee, backed the earlier House measure and had urged their Senate colleagues to pass it expeditiously. 

Johnson, R-La., is expected to achieve passage of the bills, but it may be at the expense of his job, as some Republicans are threatening to remove him from the speaker’s post.

Russian assets

The final bill in the House package would also direct the president to set up a Ukraine Support Fund and work with partner countries to establish a mechanism that would allow use of frozen Russian sovereign assets to help reconstruct Ukraine from the damage caused by Russia’s invasion more than two years ago.

The text says about $300 billion in Russian sovereign assets have been frozen as a result of the invasion in early 2022. But the countries that hold the assets are so far unwilling to use them to aid Ukraine. The U.S. controls only $4 billion to $5 billion, with an estimated $190 billion controlled by Belgium.

The bill notes Belgium’s unwillingness to seize those assets unless it has the support of G-7 countries.

“The most effective ways to provide compensation for the damages caused by the Russian Federation’s internationally wrongful acts should be assessed by an international mechanism charged with determining compensation and providing assistance to Ukraine,” the bill says. 

“The extreme illegal actions taken by the Russian Federation, including an act of aggression, present a unique situation, justifying the establishment of a legal authority for the United States Government and other countries to confiscate Russian sovereign assets in their respective jurisdictions,” it says.

The provisions reflect a bill by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that his panel approved in November. That measure hasn’t seen floor action. Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, sponsored a Senate version that received panel approval in January.

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