Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, assistant managing editor of tech and science Jason Abbruzzese explains how the TikTok vote in the House Wednesday is part of a broader effort to crack down on social media companies after years of inaction. Plus, chief political analyst Chuck Todd takes a look at the GOP divide in Ohio’s Senate race ahead of next week’s primary.

The TikTok bill may be just the start of efforts to crack down on social media

By Jason Abbruzzese

It’s not just TikTok.

Yes, Wednesday’s vote — and the vitriol surrounding it that surprisingly does not fall cleanly along party lines — was primarily about TikTok, as the House overwhelmingly approved legislation that could ban the popular app if the China-based ByteDance doesn’t divest it.

But it’s also a move that adds to the broader momentum around legislation aimed at cracking down on social media companies. For years, plenty of politicians had talked tough and floated the occasional bill targeting consumer tech giants. Tech companies like Facebook (now Meta) even mounted campaigns calling for regulation, albeit the kind that they helped shape. Little changed.

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That’s started to shift, and there’s plenty of bills that aren’t expressly about TikTok. The most notable, the Kids Online Safety Act, has also gained momentum on Capitol Hill and resulted in a similar scrambling of traditional political coalitions. That bill would require social media companies to do more to make their platforms safe for younger users around issues like sexual exploitation and harassment.

At the state level, governments are entertaining a variety of different legislative ideas, even going so far as to propose bans on social media for kids under 16.

That said, there’s plenty of barriers left for these bills. Passing through both chambers of Congress or a state legislature remains a major hurdle, not to mention the inevitable legal challenges that have scuttled even successful legislation. Laws passed by Texas and Florida meant to impose restrictions on how social media companies moderate their platforms were met with skepticism by Supreme Court justices during recent arguments, suggesting the laws could soon be struck down.

Even after earning broad support in the House, the TikTok legislation now faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where members are expressing less urgency to act. Democrats will have to weigh sending such a bill to President Joe Biden, whose struggles with young voters have been well documented, as his re-election campaign ramps up. Biden has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. 

But even the TikTok bill’s ultimate failure would add to what is a varied and increasingly bipartisan move on social media companies that once operated with few concerns of government intervention.

The most important Senate race in the fight for the GOP’s future

Analysis by Chuck Todd

While Donald Trump has decisively won the GOP nomination for president, in some places, there’s still a battle down the ballot over what direction the party should take — often breaking down along similar lines to Trump’s one-on-one phase of his primary with Nikki Haley.

The Republican electorate spoke out loud and clear for the side of Trump in the presidential primaries, but some of the sub-battles in this struggle between the two wings are closer contests. Ohio’s Senate primary might be ground zero for this debate, as Trump and his forces are fully behind Bernie Moreno, while the more Chamber of Commerce-aligned wing of the party is behind a wealthy scion, state Sen. Matt Dolan.

The divides in this race are stark, particularly over issues like Ukraine and whether the government should be small or strong. In the last Ohio Senate primary, the old guard stayed out of the race and let Trump essentially pick the nominee, now-Sen. JD Vance.

This time, the old guard is uniting behind a non-Trump candidate, with Gov. Mike DeWine and former Sen. Rob Portman supporting Dolan. Dolan ran against Vance in 2022 but didn’t have this level of outside support.

For those Republicans who hope to rebuild and redirect the party in a new direction post-Trump, a Dolan primary victory would be the start of a movement in that direction — should Trump lose the presidential race. But a Moreno victory would mean the Ohio GOP is most likely headed into the arms of Trump for the long haul, not just an election cycle or two.

Whatever the outcome in this Senate primary, it will matter a lot to the future of the GOP. And it’s certainly, for me, the most consequential Republican race to watch this cycle because of all the subtext involved.

Read more from Chuck here →

🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • ⚖️ Trump trials: The judge presiding over the election interference case in Georgia has dismissed some of the criminal counts against Trump, but has yet to rule whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from the case. Read more →
  • 👟 Veepstakes: Abortion has emerged as a top concern for Trump as he considers several contenders to be his running mate. Read more →
  • 👀 Progressive problems: Politico explores how some progressives are concerned about Biden’s messaging on abortion, and they worry his decision to highlight certain stories about access to reproductive care further stigmatizes the procedure. Read more →
  • 🍑 Georgia on my mind: Georgia Democrats acknowledge they are facing a “tough fight ahead” in keeping the state blue after Biden’s 2020 breakthrough. Read more →
  • 🌳 Marijuana meeting: After Biden said in his State of the Union address that marijuana reform would be a priority, Vice President Kamala Harris is set to hold a roundtable discussion on the issue with rapper Fat Joe. Read more →
  • 🏈 A different kind of run for Rodgers? Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is set to announce his running mate for his independent presidential bid in two weeks. And his shortlist of candidates includes New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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