Sen. Josh Hawley accused fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of advocating for China’s right to spy on Americans after Mr. Paul torpedoed Mr. Hawley’s effort to pass a bill banning TikTok on Wednesday.
Mr. Hawley, Missouri Republican, sought to advance his proposal blocking the China-founded app by unanimous consent, without a roll-call vote, on Wednesday evening but Mr. Paul objected.
The Kentucky Republican said fear of China’s communism ought not cause Congress to ignore Americans’ First Amendment rights via a ban on TikTok.
“To those who are worried that the Chinese government might somehow now have access to millions of Americans’ teenage information, realize that all social media sucks up personal data that people voluntarily provide,” Mr. Paul said on the Senate floor. “If you’re going to ban TikTok, what’s next?”
Before supporting a nationwide ban on TikTok, Mr. Paul encouraged Americans to consider whether they wanted President Biden or any future president to censor information.
Mr. Hawley said he was outraged by Mr. Paul’s argument in favor of TikTok being allowed to continue to operate in the U.S.
TikTok’s China-founded parent company ByteDance has sparked concerns among lawmakers who fear that China’s policy of military-civil fusion will force cooperation between the company and the communist government.
Mr. Hawley said Mr. Paul’s defense of TikTok amounted to a defense of China’s right to spy on Americans.
“The senator from Kentucky mentions the Bill of Rights, I must’ve missed the right of Chinese governments to spy on Americans in our Bill of Rights because that’s what we’re talking about here,” Mr. Hawley said.
Mr. Paul said he opposed communism but would not take First Amendment advice from people who did not think free speech protections extend to proponents of communism. He then warned Americans to “beware of people who peddle fear” and those who peddle half-truths.
“Those who believe that the First Amendment doesn’t protect this speech are in the wrong and they’ll find that out when the Supreme Court rules on this,” Mr. Paul said. “I object.”
Mr. Hawley replied that “the truth will carry the day” and he would continue to fight for restrictions on TikTok.
Mr. Hawley’s legislation is not the only Senate bill proposing restrictions on TikTok, and other proposals are gaining bipartisan support.
Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, and John Thune, South Dakota Republican, have led a coalition of 18 senators on legislation empowering Mr. Biden to ban TikTok.
Sens. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Angus King, Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, have separately worked on a bill to ban TikTok with Democratic and Republican lawmakers who introduced companion legislation in the House.
Mr. Hawley’s effort to advance his legislation came after Mr. Paul published an op-ed in Louisville’s Courier Journal defending the TikTok app against proposed bans. Mr. Paul said banning TikTok would cause Republicans to lose elections for many years.
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at email@example.com.
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