Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will mark up a proposal to limit tech giants from prioritizing their own goods over rival products, signaling momentum for proponents of revamping antitrust laws in the new year. 

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act has bipartisan support, co-sponsored by Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (D-Minn.) and Judiciary ranking member Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Iowa). 

Senators in support of the proposal say it would mitigate concerns critics have raised that tech giants, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook, have engaged in discriminatory behavior by preferencing their own goods and disadvantaging their rivals.

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“For too long, tech giants have used their power to suppress their rivals, unfairly put their products first in their marketplaces, and force sellers on their platforms to buy more services from them in exchange for better placement on their site. This has hurt both small businesses and consumers," Klobuchar said in a statement Monday announcing Thursday’s markup. "A broad, bipartisan group of our colleagues agree and have signed on to our legislation to implement common sense rules of the road for these platforms."

The proposal is also co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (R-La.), Cory BookerCory BookerDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Bass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign CNN legal analyst knocks GOP senator over remark on Biden nominee MORE (D-N.J.), Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks GOP senator blocks Biden EPA nominees over coal plant decision Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-Wyo.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats, poised for filibuster defeat, pick at old wounds  Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules  MORE (D-Hawaii), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Biden moves to boost security of sensitive national security systems MORE (D-Va.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyMissouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote MORE (R-Mo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill Overnight Defense & National Security — No punishments in botched Kabul drone strike MORE (R-Mont.). 

Tech industry groups are pushing back on the proposal ahead of the markup.

Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, criticized the committee for not holding a hearing ahead of the markup. NetChoice names Amazon and Google among its members. 

“A committee hearing would shine sunlight on what has thus far been an opaque legislative process,” Szabo said. 

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Chamber of Progress, which calls Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta corporate partners, said the bill is “bad for consumers” and “politically toxic.” 

“If lawmakers want to regulate the tech industry, they should tackle popular issues like cybersecurity or privacy, not break two-day shipping,” Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said in a statement, referring to Amazon’s Prime program shipping option. 

The bill is similar to one the House Judiciary Committee advanced in June as part of a package of antitrust bills aimed at revamping laws in a way proponents say better address the modern environment and tech giants. 

The bills have bipartisan support in the House, but they also have bipartisan critics; the backlash has stalled the proposals and they have not been called to the floor. 

In the Senate, Klobuchar and Grassley’s proposal faces an even tougher challenge in the 50-50 chamber, which gives Democrats a slim majority ahead of the November midterm election.