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Senate inches forward on privacy regulations

Two men and one woman in professional attire sit behind a dais
Sens. John Thune, Roger Wicker and Maria Cantwell. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Two more lawmakers have joined a Senate effort to craft a bipartisan online privacy bill, but the group still seemed far from releasing legislation as they huddled on Tuesday.

The bottom line: Congress isn't going to move quickly on this issue, even if lawmakers are facing pressure to pre-empt state privacy measures like the one that goes into effect in California next year.

Details: The Senate Commerce Committee will host a hearing about consumers' privacy expectations Wednesday, featuring Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon and Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer.

The hearing follows a closed-door meeting Tuesday evening of the group of panel members trying to write a bipartisan bill.

  • Two new additions to the group: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who as majority whip is a high-ranking member of Senate Republican leadership, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee.
  • Committee chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said that their addition "will help us develop the consensus needed to move this legislation forward in the coming months."

What they're saying: "We're just in the early stages, but I think in terms of this kind of a big undertaking, in terms of legislation, [we're] probably in a pretty good place," said Thune. "It's Senate speed, you know?"

Yes, but: Even if a bill preempting state laws manages to get to 60 votes in the Senate, the passage of legislation in the House is far from guaranteed.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won't accept legislation that replaces her state's law with something weaker.