Republican infighting threatens tech antitrust vote

The House is expected to vote on a package of previously uncontroversial bills targeting Big Tech’s market dominance this week, but a sudden flare-up among Republicans is threatening to hold up any movement on the bills. 

Earlier this week, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) announced that the House planned to vote on three bills that would make it more difficult and expensive for large tech companies, like Apple or Google, to acquire smaller companies by increasing filing fees. In turn, those fees would be used to fund investigations for federal antitrust enforcers at the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department. 

“We can’t allow goliath tech firms to crush small businesses and conservatism any longer,” Buck said in a Monday statement. “America is watching.”

Before this week, Democrats and Republicans largely approved of the measures that came out of the House Judiciary Committee’s lengthy antitrust investigation into the largest tech firms. But on Tuesday, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee put out a tweet suddenly opposing the measures, accusing Democrats of using any new antitrust funding “to target conservatives.” 

“Do you trust they won’t use the money to target conservatives?”

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), also criticized the measures, casting doubt on the willingness of Biden administration officials to use the funding fairly.

“Do you think we should give the Biden DOJ and FTC more money? Do you trust they won’t use the money to target conservatives? Do you think Joe Biden, Merrick Garland, and Lina Khan have your best interests at heart?” Jordan asked in a Tuesday tweet. “No, No, No.”

Senate Republicans are urging their House colleagues to support the package. In a Monday statement, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) said, “This package represents a strong, bipartisan consensus approach to strengthening enforcement of the federal antitrust laws, against both Big Tech and other bad actors. Importantly, these bills improve antitrust enforcement without appropriating any more funds to President Biden’s out-of-control FTC.”

The late-game infighting comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has failed to call a vote on even stronger tech antitrust measures in the Senate. Over the summer, Schumer promised to hold a vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would bar dominant platforms like Amazon and Google from favoring their own services over those of their competitors. 

As of publication, no Senate votes have been scheduled.