Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation

Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation
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The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is coming under pressure to hit the brakes on a legislative package targeting tech giants.

Industry groups, major tech companies and centrist Democrats have called for additional time and hearings to weigh the five proposals before the panel moves ahead with Wednesday’s scheduled markup.

The bills focus on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and build off the investigation the House subcommittee conducted last year that led to a blockbuster report alleging abuse of market power by the companies, who have all pushed back on the report’s findings.

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Now, the industry is arguing that the legislation on tap for Wednesday could lead to “unintended” consequences and end up hindering consumers and small businesses that rely on their services.

“The bills would require us to degrade our services and prevent us from offering important features used by hundreds of millions of Americans,” Mark Isakowitz, Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, said in a statement.

"We respectfully recommend that these consequences receive more thoughtful consideration before Congress takes action,” Isakowitz added.

The proposals — all of which have some level of GOP support — are supported by advocacy groups and a coalition of small-business owners. The measures were introduced on June 11.

Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said the panel, led by Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineMcCarthy jokes it'll be hard not to 'hit' Pelosi with gavel if he is Speaker Lobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills MORE (D-R.I.), is moving “unnecessarily fast in pushing these bills forward.”

“We encourage Chairman Cicilline and committee members to slow down, postpone the markup, and thoroughly vet the language in the bills for unintended negative consequences,” Huseman said in a statement.

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A Facebook spokesperson called the legislation a “poison pill for America’s tech industry at a time our economy can least afford it” and argued it underestimates the “unrelenting competition within the tech sector,” pointing to competition from foreign companies including the Chinese-owned TikTok.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Tech industry groups such as NetChoice and Chamber of Progress, which list Google, Facebook and Amazon among their members and partners, have issued similar warnings about the legislative package.

“They put at risk free services that consumers use to message and call loved ones, get directions, connect with healthcare professions, consume online content‚ including news and educational content‚ and much more,” TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore wrote to members of the committee.

Chamber of Progress, along with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship, the Latino Coalition and the U.S. Black Chambers, penned a separate letter Tuesday to Cicilline and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Britney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator MORE (D-N.Y.) asking them to consider consequences that could “inadvertently put technology, information, or opportunity further out of reach for small businesses and other communities that have been left behind,” according to a copy of the letter shared with The Hill.

Richard Luchette, a spokesperson for Cicilline, dismissed the arguments from the tech industry.

“I do not have a comment on the fact that tech platforms holding monopoly power are trying to delay long-overdue reforms that will require them to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Luchette said.

Some advocates argue that the industry is quaking because the bills could upend their business models.

“Amazon executives are panicking because they know these bills will break the company's stranglehold on small businesses and consumers, and force it to compete on a level playing field,” Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement.

But in addition to the tech industry, centrist Democrats are also saying the subcommittee should move slowly with its consideration of the legislation.

Members of the New Democrat Coalition wrote last week to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy Ocasio-Cortez: Democrats can't blame GOP for end of eviction moratorium MORE (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProgressives camp outside Capitol to protest evictions House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Md.) and Nadler urging a delay of Wednesday’s markup, saying full legislative hearings on these proposals are needed instead.

“We agree it is long overdue for Congress to enact laws that protect consumer’s rights and personal information in our ever increasingly digital world. However, these are complex issues with far reaching implications,” wrote Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneBiden's keeping the Canada-US border closed makes no sense Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Reducing compliance burdens for the beauty industry MORE (Wash.), Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Energy: Democrats seek to tackle climate change with import tax | Advocates say bigger deal needed to meet climate crisis | Western wildfires worsen with 80 different fires Democrats unveil polluter import tax legislation Brewing battle over tax hikes to test Democratic unity MORE (Calif.), Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsMajority of House Democrats urge keeping climate provisions in infrastructure package Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run MORE (Kan.), Ann KusterAnn McLane KusterTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Man charged in Capitol riot says he's running for Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day MORE (N.H.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Kathy Manning (N.C.).

“Legislation on topics as multifaceted and important as this one should be given the appropriate time and consideration,” they added.

Spokespeople for Pelosi, Hoyer and the House Judiciary Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The proposals would give regulators more power to rein in the tech giants — at a time when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be helmed by Big Tech critic Lina KhanLina KhanThe flawed case against noncompetes Hillicon Valley: Tech groups urge Congress to 'dig deeper' on Facebook role in Capitol riot | Kaseya denies paying hackers for decryption key | Tech coalition expands tracking of extremist content The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE — and could even lead to breaking up some of the companies.

President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE has yet to nominate another key antitrust official — the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division — but by naming Khan, who worked on the House panel's antitrust investigation last year, to head the FTC just hours after she was confirmed by the Senate is a signal that Biden’s likely to take a strong stance against the tech giants.

Wednesday’s markup is likely to lead to a contentious debate, as prominent Republicans have also slammed the proposals.

While Nadler last week touted the bills as a “historic” step that will “pave the way for a stronger economy and a stronger democracy for the American people,” Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanKinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy Jordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 AP Fact Check rates GOP claim Pelosi blocked National Guard on Jan. 6 'false' MORE (R-Ohio), the committee’s ranking member, has been on a media blitz bashing the legislation.

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Jordan on Tuesday co-authored an opinion piece published by Fox News arguing the bills would “empower the Biden administration to command and control Big Tech with an unchecked iron fist.”

“These Democrat bills will only make things worse. If you think Big Tech is bad now, just wait until Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are working in collusion with Big Government,” Jordan wrote with former Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows says Trump World looking to 'move forward in a real way' Trump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ MORE (R-N.C.), who later served as chief of staff in the Trump White House.

Despite that criticism, antitrust subcommittee ranking member Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckGOP lawmakers demand answers on withheld restitution following Nassar revelation Hillicon Valley: Biden: Social media platforms 'killing people' | Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push | Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' MORE (R-Colo.) said last week he expects more Republicans to support the proposals.

“We see this as a starting point and we are open to making these bills better, both here and on the Senate side together. If we don't start somewhere, we don't do something, the problem becomes much, much bigger,” Buck told reporters.