A package of antitrust bills to rein in the biggest U.S. tech companies is proving divisive not just for Republican lawmakers, but also for Democrats who are split on whether the legislation goes too far.
The six bills being marked up Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee speak to an oft-repeated goal of many Democrats: curbing the power of Silicon Valley. Four of the bills would zero in on Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft for greater regulation, limiting their ability to buy up promising startups that could grow into rivals and prohibiting them from using their platforms to discriminate against competitors.
The push to crack down on those tech giants has drawn support from a broad coalition of lawmakers fed up with Silicon Valley, from progressive leaders like Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) to outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump like Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). On the Republican side, it has also prompted public rebukes by party detractors who call the legislation an affront to conservative values.
But a growing number of moderate Democrats are also voicing concern about the proposals under consideration this week, which they warn could have a vast impact on the U.S. economy. That includes at least two key California Democrats that sit on Judiciary, Zoe Lofgren and Lou Correa, who will have a say Wednesday on which bills make it out of the panel and which don’t.
“My concern is that this legislation will essentially push away investment in this area, it will stifle the economics behind it, the job creation,” Correa, whose district includes parts of Orange County, said in an interview Tuesday.
Correa said he plans to back one of the proposals under consideration Wednesday that would increase the amount of money federal regulators get from companies filing for mergers (H.R. 3843 (117)). But he said he has concerns about the other bills and has not yet decided how he’ll vote on them.
Lofgren, whose district includes the San Jose area, has “major concerns” about the measures, a Democratic staffer said. While Lofgren agrees with the goals of bills to make it easier for users to switch between platforms (H.R. 3849 (117)) and prevent the tech giants from preferring their own products (H.R. 3816 (117)), she has some proposals to improve the legislation, said the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. But the merger ban (H.R. 3826 (117)) and a measure that would force the companies to sell-off lines of business (H.R. 3825 (117)) would, in her view, “unnecessarily rip apart these companies, not responsibly regulate them,” the staffer said.
“It is a concern within the California delegation,” Correa said.
But Democratic apprehension isn’t limited to California, which is home to three of the five tech giants. Last week, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and seven other moderate Democrats urged House leaders and the panel to delay the markup, warning that the legislation could weaken privacy protections, increase cybersecurity risks and further the spread of misinformation, as first reported by Bloomberg.
“These issues don’t exist in a silo,” DelBene, whose district includes Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters, said in an email. “They cross every aspect of our daily lives. We want to ensure lawmakers fully understand the intended and unintended consequences of these measures before advancing them.”
DelBene, a former senior Microsoft executive whose husband retired from the company this year, chairs the New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of center-left lawmakers whose membership is among the biggest of any on Capitol Hill.
Correa echoed DelBene’s argument, saying it “would have helped” to delay the session. “We want to make sure you get it right,” he said.
A senior Democratic aide dismissed the concerns raised by DelBene and the New Democrats, saying the letter “does not represent the broader views of the caucus.” The legislation was based on the House Judiciary’s 500-page report last year into competition in online markets, and the 10 hearings that took place as part of that investigation, said the aide.
The bipartisan push to overhaul the country’s antitrust laws has driven a more public wedge among Republicans.
Buck, the top Republican on Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, is a co-sponsor on every bill slated to be marked up this Wednesday. And he has pleaded publicly with his fellow Republicans to join the effort.
“Big Government created Big Tech monopolies. Big Tech monopolies threaten free speech, innovation, and competition. Republicans should be committed to breaking up Big Tech’s monopoly power,” Buck tweeted Saturday.
But the pleas have thus far failed to convince some top Republican leaders. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy objected to the antitrust proposals through a spokesman, and suggested he planned to introduce an alternative plan to rein in the tech giants focused on claims they are biased against conservatives, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the full Judiciary Committee and an ally of Buck’s from the House Freedom Caucus, tore into the proposals in a Fox News op-ed on Tuesday as an effort by the “radical Left” to “wreak bureaucratic havoc on conservative values, speech and free enterprise.”
Original Post: politico.com