Gallagher says it’s ‘disgusting’ former lawmakers are lobbying for TikTok

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, on Sunday called the lobbying campaign against legislation that could ban TikTok “disgusting,” pointing specifically to the involvement of former members of Congress.

“There is an unprecedented lobbying campaign. They’re really weaponizing the swamp against legislative action,” Gallagher said in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” referring to efforts by TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance.

“Over half a million dollars spent last quarter alone on seven different lobbying firms. It’s disgusting. Former members of Congress lobbying on behalf of TikTok. By the way, that should be illegal. Members of Congress should not be allowed to lobby in general, let alone on behalf of foreign adversaries.

In a 352-65 vote last Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would force ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok within 165 days or risk the app being banned in the United States. The bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain.

The bill’s passage in the House comes after a rise in concerns about China’s influence over TikTok. Supporters of the bill say it aims to curb national security threats posed by ByteDance, which they say could share sensitive data from American users with the Chinese government. They also express concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to control what content viewers consume, and how it therefore might have an outsize influence on their political views.

The bill also passed despite an intense lobbying campaign, which included former members of Congress. It passed with strong bipartisan support, even though there was vocal opposition on both sides of the aisle.

Former President Trump, the presumptive GOP 2024 presidential nominee, was the strongest force from the right who opposed the bill. He cited concerns that a ban might benefit rival social media company Facebook.

Trump’s opposition to a possible TikTok ban came after he met with Jeff Yass, a major GOP donor and investor in TikTok. Trump said Yass did not bring up TikTok during the conversation. 

TikTok has also been pushing users hard to contact their members of Congress to pressure them into opposing the legislation.

Gallagher remained optimistic Sunday about the likelihood of the bill passing, pointing to his bipartisan work with the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.). They worked together to pass the legislation.

“I do think the fact that we got a vote, really a huge vote in the House, bipartisan, 352, makes it impossible to ignore,” Gallagher said. “And that’s a testament to Raja’s leadership, the fact that we were able to come together at a time when the parties don’t trust each other on anything. Far better for Congress to step up and legislate a solution, so that we’re not bouncing back and forth between different presidents, different executive orders. That’s a recipe for chaos.”

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