Jtime is running out in Congress to regulate Big Tech. As the days left to pass legislation dwindle, supporters and opponents are stepping up their efforts on Capitol Hill.
Sponsors of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act held a press conference last week as part of a Hail Mary effort to bring the bill to a vote. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) in urging the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to fit a floor vote into the tightening legislative schedule.
The legislation would ban “self-preference” from the biggest digital platforms. In practice, this means bans on Amazon recommending its own generic products over third-party sellers and Google on displaying its own Google Maps content at the top of its search results. It also forces larger companies to let smaller competitors and partners interact with the platform in an effort to level the playing field.
Senate leadership indicated earlier in the session that a vote will take place in “early summer,” but possible gun control legislation has made the midterm election distraction even greater. for supporters of the bill. Additionally, some politicians worry that voters are too preoccupied with high gas prices, rising inflation and the impending Supreme Court ruling on abortion to reward politicians for a corporate antitrust crackdown. technologies.
At the press conference, Grassley underscored his sense of urgency, saying, “If we want action, we need a Senate vote, and we need that Senate vote soon.”
Klobuchar added that “despite all the money spent against us, we have momentum because the bill is pro-competitive and that’s common sense.”
Proponents of the bill include the Center for American Progress and numerous smaller tech companies, such as privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo and Yelp, but there are reports of an internal split over the legislation within the American Bar Association. The ABA sent a letter opposing the bill earlier this year, but there are now reports of rejection from some within the group.
The Washington Post reported that various industry groups spent more than $10 million in television ads and hundreds of thousands of dollars in Internet advertising to oppose the legislation.
The fight spilled over into popular culture last week when John Oliver devoted an entire segment to supporting this antitrust bill and another on his HBO show, Last week tonight with John Oliver. Oliver’s televised support for net neutrality years ago helped fuel unexpected mainstream interest in politics. It’s unclear if he can pace the story with antitrust law, but the recent segment already has millions of hits on YouTube.
Opponents of the bill, including industry officials and academic proponents of traditional antitrust policy, are simultaneously increasing pressure to thwart a full vote in the Senate. The hope is that if, as expected, control of both houses of Congress returns to Republicans this fall, this and other antitrust legislation will not progress.
Tom Herbert, executive director of the Open Competition Center, told the Washington Examiner, “At this point, it’s hard to see how S. 2992 crosses the finish line by midterm.”
He noted that Klobuchar did not say the bill had 60 votes in the Senate or indicate a firm commitment from the leadership to a date for a floor vote during his pep rally for the bill.
Herbert continued, “In the mad rush before the August recess, Congress has an extremely narrow window to do anything. It’s hard to imagine Republicans, and even some Democrats, wanting to waste valuable time on Klobuchar’s pet project.
Some in the political trenches of Congress may agree. Politics reported that during a caucus-wide call of the Democratic Chiefs of Staff in May, many expressed concern about the priority given to this bill over other priorities so close to the midterm elections. A Senate aide told the outlet that Democrats “should instead focus on items that will help consumers with rising costs.”
Herbert agreed, telling the Washington Examiner, “Voters are focused on pocket issues like inflation and rising gas prices. A recent Gallup poll shows that 52% of Americans cite inflation as their biggest problem. Antitrust is not even classified.