The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce has now completed the third of three scheduled hearings in advance of drafting comprehensive privacy legislation. During the hearing last month, lawmakers focused in particular on the urgent need to address the data sharing risks of wildly popular apps.
The hearing is just the latest indication that Congress is interested in this legislative effort. When President Joe Biden called on Congress during his State of the Union address “to pass bipartisan legislation to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to children, and impose stricter limits on the personal data that companies collect on all of us,” he received bipartisan applause. But the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) failed to advance to the House or Senate floors last Congress. What are the chances that it will advance further this year?
The new version of the ADPPA has yet to be introduced, though we expect it could be released shortly. Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is reportedly updating the bill with significant changes. It remains to be seen if she will have bipartisan, bicameral cosponsors for the new language and how fast it could be approved by the Committee.
Congress is deadline driven, with lawmakers often accelerating work when an authorization or funding is set to end. While the privacy bill has no deadline, Congress’ to-do list is already filling up prior to the end of the fiscal year (September 30). Lawmakers could provide themselves an extension on addressing the debt ceiling, Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations, omnibus agriculture legislation, and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, among other bills, but they are more likely to focus on these immediate needs than other initiatives in the immediate future. This is especially true in the current environment, where Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate and Republicans have a narrow majority in the House; consensus is needed for successful votes, and negotiations take time.
As we noted in our prior post, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is no longer Speaker of the House and thus cannot block floor action to ensure California’s more stringent privacy standards are not eclipsed by federal action. Current Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has expressed interest in privacy legislation in the past.
In Congress, if there is a will, there is a way. While the legislative deliberation phase may be lengthened based on the full Congressional agenda and lawmakers’ preferences, a comprehensive privacy and data security law appears more likely to pass than ever before.