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Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool via Getty Images

The Senate Commerce Committee has voted to authorize subpoenas compelling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to testify before the panel.

Why it matters: The tech giants are yet again facing a potential grilling on Capitol Hill sometime before the end of the year, at a time when tech is being used as a punching bag from both the left and right.

Yes, but: The subpoenas will only be issued if the executives refuse to come voluntarily. The Commerce panel will first be reaching out to the companies to try to schedule a hearing, a committee aide told Axios.

Context: With Republicans centering their tech criticisms around claims that digital platforms stack the deck against conservatives, Democrats were expected to boycott today's subpoena vote. They did not.

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said she was supporting the subpoena authorization after committee chair Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) agreed to add the topics of privacy and "media domination" to the list of topics to ask tech executives about.

Be smart: Partisan lines remain. Democrats supported the subpoena, but they urged Congress not to create a "chilling effect" on tech to remove misinformation from their platforms and dismissed the allegations of anti-conservative bias. They also pushed for votes on their own bills on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes platforms from liability for material their users post.

What they're saying: "This feels like an attempt to work the refs five weeks out from the election," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). When conservatives bring up claims of bias, "that's when this conversation goes off a cliff," he said.

What's next: If the companies resist a voluntarily hearing, the subpoenas will have to actually be sent to the executives and a hearing date will have to be set.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include new information from the committee on the prospect of arranging a voluntary hearing.

Go deeper

Social media platforms muzzle Trump after Capitol melee

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all took their strongest actions yet to block President Trump after his messages egged on misinformation-fueled mobs storming the Capitol Wednesday.

Yes, but: Many critics say the social media companies bear some responsibility for the day's chaos for not reining in Trump sooner and harder — and the brief suspensions fell short of calls for the networks to permanently ban Trump's account for repeated rule violations.

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece, Mary Trump, on Tuesday over the news outlet's reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The lawsuit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges that the NYT "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that it "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.