Congress May Have Missed Its Chance To Break Up Big Tech

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Congress May Have Missed Its Chance To Break Up Big Tech

John Hugh DeMastri on August 8, 2022

Congress will enter its August recess with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer having not put a bipartisan antitrust bill targeting large U.S.-based technology companies up for a vote, leading some to question whether it will ever become law, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While Schumer has repeatedly said that he will bring the American Innovation and Choice Online (AICO) Act to a vote, he has hesitated to give a clear date for when that will be, according to Time. Opposition senators and technology companies have taken Schumer’s unwillingness as a sign that he lacks the votes necessary to pass the bill, according to the WSJ.

“This would be the most dramatic change to antitrust rules in more than 50 years and would steer antitrust regulation to be more political – promoting favored firms rather than promoting competition,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a lobbying organization that represents Amazon, Google parent Alphabet, Apple and Facebook parent Meta, in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This bill has never been ready for prime time, so it makes sense that Congress is prioritizing its problems voters care about like inflation, US competitiveness and economic growth.”

“If the bill had the support its supporters contended, it wouldn’t be a bill, it would be a law,” said Schruers told the WSJ.

Advocates disagree, with the co-sponsor of the bill, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island telling Time “I think it’s very clear that we have the votes.”

“It’s past time that the majority leader brings up our bipartisan antitrust bill cracking down on Big Tech’s anticompetitive behavior,” said co-sponsor Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley in a statement to Time.

AICO would prevent tech companies from allowing their search engines to give their products advantages, such as preventing them from seeing competing products, or making it difficult for competitors on their platforms to reach consumers, according to the WSJ.

“I may be angry with YouTube for its policies that silence debate, but I would not allow my anger to support the use of antitrust to destroy the system that made YouTube possible,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in an op-edopposing the bill. “Doing so now would only freeze YouTube’s dominant position by preventing competitors from emerging.”

The bill, while widely endorsed by non-California Democrats, has less universal Republican support, and proponents and opponents alike believe that if Republicans gain control of either house of Congress in November, the bill’s chances of becoming law will be significantly reduced, the WSJ reported. California Democrats, who represent the places where the tech companies call home, have raised concerns about the targeted nature of the bill, according to the WSJ.

Schumer initially promised to vote on the legislation over the summer, if there were sufficient votes, but at least a dozen critical votes were still not guaranteed by August, according to The Verge.

Schumer, Grassley, Cicciline and Paul did not immediately respond to the DCNF.

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