House Committee Clears Controversial Tech Antitrust Bills

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a raft of bipartisan legislation aimed at harnessing the largest tech companies’ influence and fostering competition for industry upstarts. The six bills, five of which were described by Law Street Media in coverage earlier this month, will now move to the full chamber for a vote.

According to the committee’s press release, the six bills passed this week include the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act of 2021, a measure supported by the National Association of Attorneys General. It reportedly reduces certain administrative hurdles and costs for state attorneys general who bring antitrust cases in federal court, like delays and venue transfer-related expenses.

Coverage of the committee debate provided by The New York Times in an article authored by Cecilia Kang and David McCabe, explained that though an early victory for supporters, the process revealed the challenges that lie ahead for the proposed laws. The news outlet reported that during a three-hour debate concerning the first bill discussed, reportedly the least controversial of the six, the proposed Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, fissures showed.  

While Democrats did most of the talking, Republicans voiced concern that the bills will only add more government intermediation while not directly tackling their free speech concerns, The New York Times noted. For example, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the highest ranking Republican on the committee, reportedly stated that the move was a power grab for the Democrat-led antitrust agencies in an ploy to enhance their size and authority.

“Big tech censors conservatives,” said Rep. Jordan, a claim he allegedly repeated several times, despite the existence of data demonstrating otherwise, the news outlet noted. “These bills don’t fix that problem; they make it worse,” he concluded. In addition, though Democrats support the bills, California legislators have shown apprehension. According to The New York Times, some say they go too far.

For example, Southern California Democrat Rep. Lou Correa, reportedly highlighted positives brought to his state by the largest tech company, like COVID-19 relief and public education funding. “These firms — high tech — are the reason California has a budget surplus, as opposed to a deficit,” Rep Correa reportedly said, adding subsequently, “We want to make sure that we don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

The New York Times’ analysis also remarked that the bills will face an even more uphill battle in the Senate, where they need 60 votes to surmount the legislative filibuster. Several Republicans, including Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, have pressed for tougher antitrust laws, but the news press wrote, “it is unclear whether many more will join him.”