The House on Thursday passed bipartisan antitrust legislation to give state and federal regulators more power to tackle monopoly cases, despite opposition from big tech companies like Google and Amazon.
The bills, now heading to the Senate, would arm the Justice Department’s antitrust division with more funding, strengthen the hand of state attorneys general when they sue Big Tech companies — and compel companies engaged in mergers and acquisitions to disclose any ties to US adversaries.
Proponents of the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act hailed the bill as a much-needed boost for underfunded anti-monopoly regulators.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a sponsor of the bill, hailed its passage as a “huge win for restoring competition!”
The bill swept through the House despite opposition from big tech-backed groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who argued that the legislation would “impede legitimate business transactions across all sectors and industries, would create unnecessary new bureaucracy and cause unwarranted litigation”.
Democrats voted 203 to 16 in favor of the bill, while the measure received the support of 39 Republicans, against 168 who opposed it.
The Republican opposition was led by influential Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who lambasted the bill for giving more money to what he claimed was a corrupt Justice Department.
“This bill would actually give $140 million to the DOJ so they can work and continue what they’re already doing: working with big tech to keep certain information from getting to us,” Jordan said ahead of the vote. of Thursday.
Democrats who opposed the bill included Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who represents a California district that includes Silicon Valley.
The bill would raise money for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, headed by big tech antagonist Jonathan Kanter, by increasing the fees big companies have to pay when seeking government approval to mergers and acquisitions. Companies wishing to make smaller mergers would pay lower fees.
It would also allow state attorneys general to choose where antitrust prosecutions take place. Proponents say it would reduce the ability of tech companies to ensure lawsuits are heard by pro-tech judges.
For example, if that law had been in effect, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s antitrust lawsuit against Google probably wouldn’t have been transferred to New York, where it is being heard by a judge who some lawyers say is too favorable to Google. Instead, Paxton could have kept the case in Texas.
In addition, the bill would require companies undergoing mergers to notify regulators if they have received subsidies from US rivals, including China and Russia.
In the Senate, the bill has the support of many Democrats, as well as Republican senses Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The bill was also endorsed by the White House and the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The Senate previously passed a bill allowing attorneys general to choose where antitrust lawsuits take place, but did not pass legislation on merger filing fees.
“Passing the merger reform package is an important first step in hampering Big Tech’s ability to gobble up competitors at will, collude with each other and ultimately raise prices by limiting choice for consumers,” said Sacha Haworth, executive director of advocacy group Tech Oversight. Project.