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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A rift has opened between Democrats over a proposal to address consumer data privacy concerns — as a freshman congressman from Silicon Valley barrels ahead with the idea while some of his colleagues want him to slow down.

Why it matters: Democrats would have the power to move ahead with privacy legislation if they win the House in November — but only if they settle their internal fights first.

What we’re hearing: Some House Democrats are taking issue with Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna’s approach to creating an Internet Bill of Rights that could govern, among other issues, how platforms like Facebook and Google handle consumer data.

  • Khanna says he approached minority leader Nancy Pelosi with the idea on April 12 after consulting with several former Obama administration tech staffers. “She said, ‘Why don’t you run with it?’,” he told Axios in a phone conversation Thursday.
  • He told Axios he had already circulated the proposal to outsiders.
  • Pelosi also told him to meet with colleagues who care about these issues, he confirmed, including California Democrats Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both major tech allies, and key Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over tech issues. That meeting took place April 13, according to Khanna’s office.
  • A second meeting, with just Eshoo and Lofgren, took place on April 16.

Then, things got more complicated. A House Democratic aide familiar with the discussions expressed frustration with how quickly proposed language, which the aide described as preliminary, circulated outside of Capitol Hill without the involvement of other lawmakers. Khanna also started to speak publicly about his effort in articles that came out shortly after the meetings with his colleagues.

  • The aide argued that perpetuating the idea that someone had been tapped by Pelosi to write a bill, or that the process was far along, wasn’t helpful.
  • Effectively, critics say Khanna is moving too fast. Circulating language early on can draw the attention of outside lobbyists, putting pressure on lawmakers.
  • And moving quickly runs counter to the slow processes of Congress, where Khanna will have to vet the legislation with powerful members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Because he doesn't serve on that panel, they're his only hope of turning his idea into law.

What Khanna’s saying: He says he'd sought input from outside experts before speaking with Pelosi and doesn't see a reason to stop circulating his proposal now that he's had conversations with colleagues.

  • “Their point is that once we have this draft that members are having an input in, I should just stop having external consultation,” Khanna said of his critics in a phone interview. “That’s absurd.”
  • He said in a follow-up email that he thought the criticism was indicative of the kind of lack of technical knowledge that was on display when lawmakers asked notably basic questions during last month’s Congressional hearings with Mark Zuckerberg.
  • “Some of the staff in particular is possessive of turf and want to guard their own control on the process. They are wrong,” he said. “Their closed process, with a lack of transparency and openness, is precisely why Congress has failed time and again to pass an Internet Bill of Rights. Their reliance on internal staff without consulting outside experts explains the knowledge gap.”

The bigger picture: As Europe's sweeping data protection laws take effect and consumer sensitivity to privacy concerns spikes after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to be part of the privacy game.

  • Similar efforts have stalled in the past: The Obama White House had a proposal for a “Privacy Bill of Rights” that didn’t go anywhere. And an attempt to convene industry and advocates to develop privacy standards for emerging technology had mixed results.

What’s next? Khanna says he wants to release the core principles of his Bill of Rights plan before the August recess. Other privacy proposals may also crop up ahead of the midterms.

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker