Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld
Several high-profile Republican lawmakers on Wednesday suggested they would support antitrust reforms in the wake of Facebook’s Independent Oversight Board upholding former President Trump’s ban from the platform.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) said in a statement that if “Big Tech believes they have the power to silence a president of the United States, then we need to take a serious look at antitrust laws to limit their monopolistic power.”
“If Facebook is so big it thinks it can silence the leaders you elect, it’s time for conservatives to pursue an antitrust agenda,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, tweeted.
This is a dangerous and reckless decision and sends a clear signal to conservatives using social media—you’re not welcome here.
If Facebook is so big it thinks it can silence the leaders you elect, it’s time for conservatives to pursue an antitrust agenda. https://t.co/yrUXIap3r3
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) May 5, 2021
And House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) simply said “Break them up.”
Break them up. https://t.co/J6nnipCG6v
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) May 5, 2021
While some Republicans — most prominently Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) or Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.) – have backed antitrust investigations into the U.S.’s largest technology companies and pushed to give enforcement teeth, the larger GOP has been hesitant to back reforms.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced an omnibus antitrust package earlier this year aimed at strengthening competition laws and revamping antitrust enforcement.
And Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is set to introduce several smaller bills this year based on his House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee’s investigation into competition in digital marketplaces.
Republicans have not introduced stand-alone antitrust bills this year, but Buck did provide an outline of the party’s position in a report responding to the bipartisan Judiciary investigation.
Scalise’s and Jordan’s offices did not respond to inquiries about what kind of antitrust proposals they would support.
Banks told The Hill that he is “broadly supportive” of Buck’s report.
That document backed Democratic proposals to allocate resources to antitrust regulators and reform the burden of proof for merger cases, but cautioned that more aggressive suggestions like presumptively freezing acquisitions for major companies or enforcing structural separation were non-starters for Republicans.
“Current antitrust law needs to be amended to better handle competition in digital markets, antitrust agencies should be beefed up and they need to regulate mergers and acquisitions more strictly,” Banks added in a statement.
Republican support will be needed for any of the existing or forthcoming antitrust proposals to make it past the Senate to President Biden’s desk.