Technology

Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is seen during a press conference following a virtual policy luncheon on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.
Greg Nash

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 Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (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.

“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 Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Steve Daines (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. 

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.

Tags Amazon Amy Klobuchar antitrust Apple Big tech Chuck Grassley Cory Booker Cynthia Lummis Facebook Google John Kennedy Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Mark Warner Mazie Hirono META Steve Daines

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