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Top Republican pledges ‘regroup’ after privacy bill plans collapse

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Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers abruptly canceled a markup of her bipartisan privacy bill five minutes before the panel was set to deliberate on the controversial legislation, according to four people familiar with the matter.

McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has gotten heavy pushback from top GOP leadership over the bill, as POLITICO first reported. Members of her panel implored Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on a call Wednesday night to tell McMorris Rodgers to delay the markup until issues with the bill are ironed out, according to one lawmaker on the call.

Hours after the decision to pull the markup, McMorris Rodgers said the bill’s sponsors “needed to regroup” in the face of surging opposition from Republican leadership, the tech lobby and privacy advocates.

“This is not how the House is supposed to work,” she told reporters outside the House chamber. “But we’re gonna get this done.”

The E&C chair blamed “confusion and misrepresentation” for sinking the planned markup of both the American Privacy Rights Act and the Kids Online Safety Act at the last minute. The bills would impose new privacy obligations on companies that collect peoples’ online data and stop social media platforms from recommending potentially harmful content to minors, respectively.

McMorris Rodgers said GOP leadership voiced objections to both bills, suggesting those concerns ultimately led to some members abruptly pulling their support.

“I know at the beginning of the week, we had the votes,” she said.

In a statement, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the committee’s top Democrat and a co-sponsor of the privacy bill, pledged to continue working with McMorris Rodgers on comprehensive privacy legislation. He was less circumspect in his criticism of GOP leaders, calling it “outrageous that Republican Leadership would interfere with the Committee’s bipartisan regular order process.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), another co-sponsor of the privacy bill and ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee, was similarly incensed. “I’m beside myself, I really am,” she told reporters on Thursday. “I’m so furious. … We had an opportunity. I wanted to be there to pass the bill.”

House E&C member Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) told reporters on Thursday that while she supported the broad objectives of the privacy bill, she would have voted against it had the markup gone ahead as planned. “Law enforcement has concerns, industry has concerns, some liberty organizations have concerns,” she said.

“I think there’s still many things that need to be worked out,” Cammack added. “And it’s a process that is going to be complicated. It is a process that is going to be a very hard road.”

In the minutes after the markup’s cancellation, House Speaker Mike Johnson posted on X that he is “committed to working to build consensus in the House on a data privacy bill.”

McMorris Rodgers seized upon his message, saying it showed Johnson believes it is “urgent for Congress to act on a privacy standard for all Americans, especially our children.” She said her committee would aim to reschedule the markup soon.

An E&C aide, granted anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there was no timeline for a rescheduled markup and it was too early to know whether it can be done ahead of the August recess. It is notoriously difficult for Congress to pass anything in an election year, and particularly rare for major legislation to advance after the August recess.

Robert King contributed to this report.