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‘Not Giving Up’

House Commerce Cancels Privacy Markup Amid GOP Tension

The House Commerce Committee on Thursday canceled its scheduled privacy bill markup amid tensions with Republican leadership over the viability of a bipartisan bill from Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

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Committee Republicans on Wednesday told us House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., isn’t willing to take up the legislation as drafted (see 2406260062). Johnson said in a statement Thursday: "It is time for Americans to have greater control over their privacy online, especially for the safety of our children. I am committed to working to build consensus in the House on a data privacy bill."

Pallone on Thursday accused Republican leadership of interfering with committee deliberations. Rodgers vowed to continue legislative negotiations. Pallone said it’s “outrageous” leadership would “interfere” with the committee’s regular order. He commended Rodgers for her “dedication” to the issue. "I’m committed to continuing to work with Chair Rodgers -- we’re not giving up,” he said. The committee passed a bipartisan privacy bill in 2022 (see 2207200061), but it saw no floor movement under the leadership of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Massive commercial surveillance” is driving social media problems, particularly those affecting children, said Rodgers. “We cannot continue down this path. The American people are asking Congress to step up and pass a privacy bill.”

A Republican committee staffer told reporters Thursday that Rodgers will continue conversations with Johnson and committee members. In response to a question about the bill’s private right of action being a sticking point, the staffer said the “bigger issue” for this week’s markup was “all the misinformation about the bill.” The committee dealt with “smoke and mirrors” trying to pass its bill in 2022, as well, the staffer said. Everything on Thursday’s markup remains a priority, but there is no timeline, the staffer said: “This isn’t the end.”

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., told us there was ample “evidence” leading up to the markup that it wasn’t “going to turn out well.” Members were in attendance at Thursday’s scheduled markup when the committee announced the cancelation. Walberg said hopefully Republican leadership has made clear enough members are willing to work toward a common solution moving forward: “I’m hoping it means we come back after July 4, and we can work on something.” Walberg denied leadership was “interfering” with the committee’s agenda: “Other than making it clear that they would not bring it to the floor in the form it was in, I wouldn’t call it interference.” The majority was making clear what it was “willing and able to do,” he said.

House Innovation Subcommittee ranking member Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., accused Republican leadership of doing the “bidding of Big Tech and special interests.” The bipartisan bill provides “foundational data privacy rights,” and it’s “unacceptable to make American families wait any longer,” she said.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., has worked with Walberg on the children’s privacy aspect of the legislation. She told us it’s “outrageous” the speaker and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., came into the conversation at the “11th hour” and “undermined years of work.” Castor said she “trusts” that Rodgers will get the legislation “back on track.”