Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday morphed from a shy tech nerd into a confident business executive who ran circles around lawmakers.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg's performance stoked investor confidence and made it less likely that this Congress will stringently regulate tech giants like Facebook.

Zuckerberg was well prepared, but he also benefited from redundant questioning that rarely included smart follow-ups.

  • Many senators either tried to clumsily show off for the cameras, blatantly suck up to Zuckerberg, or ask long, cringe-worthy questions that sounded like grandparents checking out their first flip phone.
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), for example, didn't seem to understand what it meant for Facebook's messaging app, Whatsapp, to be encrypted.
  • Senator after senator asked about Facebook "selling data," allowing Zuckerberg to run time off the clock by repeatedly explaining that its business model doesn't technically work that way.
  • While Zuckerberg explained some of his own perspectives — such as denying that Facebook is a monopoly and accepting responsibility for content on its platform — he mostly sidestepped sticky situations by calmly offering to have his "team" follow up with details at a later time.

By the end, some lawmakers were making jokes and asking Zuckerberg for his help. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) even asked if Zuckerberg would help build more rural fiber cable to service her constituency.

  • Zuckerberg also benefited from what happened outside the chamber, with the Trump vs. Mueller battle royale sucking up an enormous amount of D.C. media oxygen.
  • The only exception was Fox News, which often framed the Facebook issue as more about censorship of conservative voices than about privacy. That might get Trump's attention, but also could force Democrats into the unlikely role of Facebook defenders.

Bottom line: Congress might adopt some minor regulations on political advertising, but the idea of this group of senators regulating digital data right now seems far-fetched. The danger to Facebook and others isn’t quick cuts — it’s a long, slow bleed that forces Congress into action after some future data-breach or platform-manipulation crisis. 

Zuckerberg and Facebook won by default, or forfeit. 

Go deeper

McConnell: Senate has "more than sufficient time" to process Supreme Court nomination

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech Monday that the chamber has "more than sufficient time" to confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election, and accused Democrats of preparing "an even more appalling sequel" to the fight over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Why it matters: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said "nothing is off the table next year" if Republicans push ahead with the confirmation vote before November, vowing alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to use "every procedural tool available to us to ensure that we buy ourselves the time necessary."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 31,120,980 — Total deaths: 961,656— Total recoveries: 21,287,328Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 6,819,651 — Total deaths: 199,606 — Total recoveries: 2,590,671 — Total tests: 95,108,559Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  5. Business: Unemployment concerns are growing.
  6. World: "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Democrats on Monday released their proposal for short-term legislation to fund the government through December 11.

Why it matters: This is Congress' chief legislative focus before the election. They must pass a continuing resolution (CR) before midnight on Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — something both Hill leaders and the White House have claimed is off the table.