Tech-Focused Antitrust Bills Need Work, Top House Democrat Says

The Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan antitrust bills aimed at the biggest U.S. tech companies aren’t ready for a vote in the full House, according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who said Congress’s approach to encourage competition in the tech industry should be “constructive, not destructive.”

The comments on Tuesday from Hoyer, who is responsible for setting the House floor schedule, indicates that the legislation might not have broad enough support to pass as written. Tech companies and their industry groups warned that four of the bills designed to impact Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc. and Facebook Inc. could destroy products that are popular with consumers.

Tech’s Nightmare Bills Get Support and Blowback: Key Takeaways

“There was disagreement among the Democrats in the committee and not every Democrat voted for it, and some very senior members opposed it,” Hoyer said of the House Judiciary’s consideration of the legislation last week. “There’s a lot of discussion to be had before I get to scheduling bills for the floor.”

Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, acknowledged that he has work to do to build broader support for his antitrust legislation. He said he hasn’t actually asked leadership to schedule a floor vote yet and he said during the hearing that “we want to continue to work with our colleagues.”

“We’ve studied this issue for two and a half years, we’re going to have to spend time educating our colleagues about what the bills do and briefing them on the details,” he said. “It’s a very complicated area.”

Cicilline said he is “confident” the bills will eventually get a floor vote, but he didn’t offer a timeline for that to happen.

“We’re going to make sure that we do the work on both sides of the aisle to be sure we bring our colleagues up to speed,” Cicilline said. Recognizing that there is still bipartisan opposition, he said, “we don’t have to get everyone. We have to get a majority of members of Congress.”

Hoyer, speaking earlier with reporters, said the House will also keep an eye on what the Senate plans to do. Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate antitrust subcommittee, said last week that the Senate is preparing to introduce their own proposals that “may not be identical, but very similar.”

The House Judiciary Committee advanced six bills last week with bipartisan support after an all-night debate that spilled into a second day. But there was bipartisan opposition as well, especially from California representatives who echoed the tech industry’s warnings about the impact on user privacy, consumer choice and U.S. competitiveness.

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