Technology

House passes antitrust bills targeting tech giants’ power

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The U.S. Capitol dome against the Washington skyline.

The House on Thursday passed a package of antitrust bills aimed at boosting antitrust enforcers’ ability to take on powerful tech firms in a 242-184 vote that split both parties. 

Thirty-nine Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the bills. 

Sixteen Democrats broke from their party to oppose the package of bills that together would update filing fees for mergers to increase them for larger deals, allow state attorneys general to select their venue when enforcing antitrust laws and use the merger notification process to require parties to disclose subsidies they have received from countries that pose a risk to the U.S.

It is the first major antitrust reform package to pass on the House floor as part of a three-year process that started with a House Judiciary Committee investigation into the market power of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, now under the parent company name Meta. 

The House Judiciary Committee last year advanced four other proposals aimed at reforming antitrust laws in a way that supporters say better addresses modern day industry titans. The proposals were created based on recommendations from the report that concluded the investigation. 

But the dwindling legislative calendar may hamper their ability to get the proposals across the finish line, especially if Republicans win the House majority in November. 

House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was one of the most vocal critics against the antitrust package, meaning antitrust bills will likely not advance next Congress if Jordan takes the reins of the committee. 

Despite support from some Republicans, Jordan slammed the effort as partisan in nature and said it would give more money to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department to “harass” the American people. 

“If you want to do something about Big Tech, this is not the vehicle,” Jordan said. 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) urged colleagues to vote against the bill. She said her opposition was mainly to the portion of the package that allows state attorneys generals to choose the venue of their antitrust enforcement action. She said the change would help state attorneys general in bringing cases against companies over content moderation.

“We have seen in the January 6 committee a lot of material that has spread lies, that has incited violence, and that content should be moderated. It should not be subjected to bogus effort by state AGs to prevent content moderation through the antitrust provision,” she said. 

“I mean, AGs can bring cases right now without this provision. In fact, California just did against Amazon. Fine, go at it if you’ve got a case. But if you don’t think that the Attorney General of Texas, who’s currently hiding from a process server and facing other legal complications, wouldn’t try to use this to undermine content moderation, I think you’re sadly mistaken,” she added. 

Lofgren said without that proposal attached, she would “happily” support the package. 

Senators on both sides of the aisle had urged the House to support the package. 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and antitrust subcommittee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) issued a joint statement urging the House to vote for the package. Separately, Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) put a statement out earlier this week urging the House to pass the package.

Tags antitrust legislation Big tech Jim Jordan Jim Jordan Merrick Garland Zoe Lofgren Zoe Lofgren

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