Technology

Bipartisan antitrust bill sponsors push for floor vote this month

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on Monday, March 28, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on Monday, March 28, 2022.

Bipartisan sponsors of a key antitrust bill in the House and Senate on Wednesday urged leadership in both chambers to call floor votes in June on the proposal targeting tech giants.

In a joint press conference, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said members of Congress have had months to review the legislation and converse about the proposal. 

The bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, would bar companies from referencing their own products and services. Based on the definition of dominant platforms in the legislation, defined by market cap value and user base, the bill would likely apply to Apple, Google, Meta and Amazon. 

The lawmakers pushed back on criticism against the legislation from tech companies and industry groups, including that it would weaken national security, cause companies to disband services users enjoy or weaken companies’ ability to moderate violative content. 

Cicilline said the arguments are “lies coming from Big Tech.”

“This legislation does not undermine our national security or American economic competitiveness, far from it. It strengthens our national security and our competitiveness. Competitive free markets are a key source of American economic strength, and a core pillar of our national security. This legislation promotes fierce competition, which is the best way to ensure the United States continues to be the most innovative, dynamic economy in the world,” Cicilline said. 

He also highlighted support from the Department of Justice in favor of the bill. The Commerce Department has also backed the proposal. 

Versions of the bill in the House and Senate advanced out of both chambers’ Judiciary committees with bipartisan support. 

The Senate version advanced earlier this year. The House bill advanced nearly a year ago, along with five other proposals aimed at curbing the power of dominant tech platforms after a marathon markup. 

“Nobody at that point said to us, ‘don’t do this because these bills are never going to hit the floor. In fact, just the opposite. The American people saw it. They liked it. They understand it. They may not understand antitrust law — I don’t understand antitrust law — but they do understand that there is something wrong when companies that are this big control speech platforms in a democracy. That’s what they get. That’s what the thread is here. And yet, the bills haven’t hit the floor,” Buck said. 

“And that’s why I don’t understand why I’m here. I should be here with my colleagues from the Senate and House announcing that the bill has passed and that the president is ready to sign it,” he added. 

The sponsors acknowledged the dwindling timeline to pass the bill — noting that it would be unlikely for the proposal to get a vote after the August recess. 

Asked about the priority of the legislation given the focus on gun reform after nationwide mass shootings, including last month’s fatal shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Klobuchar said, “We can do two things at once — and we are ready to have this vote at any time.”

“We wouldn’t be asking for a vote if we didn’t think we could get 60 votes and if [the House] didn’t think they could get a majority on this bill,” Klobuchar added. 

Cicilline and Klobuchar also said that the bill stands on its own and should not be tied to discussions around data privacy legislation that would further regulate tech companies. A draft of a comprehensive data privacy bill, with bipartisan support in the House, was released last week. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the proposal Tuesday. 

“There’s tremendous support for privacy, but that’s on a very different timeline. Those discussions have restarted — our bill is ready for a floor vote today, and we’re ready to move forward. So we’re not going to tie the two together,” Cicilline said. 

The lawmakers are fighting against a tidal wave of ads from tech industry groups over the antitrust bill.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has launched a series of ads targeting the legislation under its “Don’t Break What Works” campaign since the start of the year. The group represents Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. 

The companies themselves have been pushing back against the bill more fiercely in recent weeks as well. Amazon published a blog post last week slamming the proposal, and Google published one on Tuesday criticizing the legislation.

Tags Amazon American Innovation and Choice Online Act Amy Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar antitrust legislation Apple Chuck Grassley Chuck Grassley David Cicilline Google Ken Buck Ken Buck
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