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Politics

Lawmakers are trying to use the end-of-year spending bill to pull Section 230 out of trade deals

Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Republican Rep. Greg Steube are circulating a letter calling for Congress to "stand up to big tech and promote clean international trade deals."

Lawmakers are trying to use the end-of-year spending bill to pull Section 230 out of trade deals

Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Republican Rep. Greg Steube are circulating a letter calling for an amendment to the omnibus bill that would restrict the U.S. Trade Representative from negotiating, enforcing or agreeing to Section 230-style language in future deals.

Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Getty Images

Lawmakers are pushing for an amendment to the end-of-year spending bill that would bar the U.S. from including Section 230-like language in future trade deals, Protocol has learned.

The push comes as the U.S. is nearing multiple trade deals that would export the social media liability shield to other countries, despite resistance from key lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi and leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have argued the U.S. shouldn't enshrine the controversial law in trade agreements while Congress is actively considering reforming it.

Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Republican Rep. Greg Steube are circulating a letter calling for an amendment to the omnibus bill that would restrict the U.S. Trade Representative from negotiating, enforcing or agreeing to Section 230-style language in future deals. It's an explicit effort to ding Big Tech in the final hours of this congressional session, and it comes on the heels of President Trump's effort to repeal Section 230 in a separate must-pass defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.

"Please join Reps. Schakowsky and Steube in supporting a bipartisan amendment to stand up to big tech and promote clean international trade deals," the letter reads, according to a draft obtained by Protocol. It is currently circulating among congressional offices, and it's unclear how many lawmakers will sign on.

"This amendment would prevent the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) from giving more handouts to big tech companies by blocking any Ambassador from continuing to promote this misguided and misapplied law in any future trade negotiations," it continues. "There is bipartisan agreement that Section 230 is overdue for reform; so why on earth is the United States Trade Representative looking to export this failed policy to our trading partners?"

It's unclear if the congressional leaders finalizing the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package will agree to include the amendment. There's often hesitation in Congress to reform trade or tax law at the eleventh hour through must-pass packages.

Schakowsky's office is currently in conversation with House appropriators to see if the amendment can be included in the bill, which is set to be filed later today.

A Democratic House aide said there's likely more political will from GOP members to get behind the amendment after Trump's prior push.

"[Section] 230 reform might be more difficult to do in a bipartisan way," the aide said, but there might be room to "agree it shouldn't be in trade deals." The aide added: "Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered and this is the house tech built by putting this in there."

Trump's Section 230 repeal effort seems destined to fail after Congress passed the NDAA without any Section 230 language by veto-proof margins. But there's still a possibility that this narrower last-minute amendment could make it through the omnibus bill, which has to pass this week.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

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Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

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