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‘Half-Baked’ Idea

Cornyn Says Antitrust Bill From Klobuchar, Grassley Won’t Get to Floor

Bipartisan legislation that would ban Big Tech platforms from self-preferencing products won’t get to the Senate floor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told us last week. Other Republicans voiced frustration in interviews over comments from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who reportedly told fundraiser attendees last week that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S-2992) doesn’t have the 10 Republican votes needed to clear the 60-vote threshold.

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Senate Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last week insisted their bill has the needed support. Grassley told us last week S-2992 could “easily” pass (see 2207260068). “That’s not true,” Cornyn said. The bill is “not coming to the floor. It’s a half-baked idea.” He noted his opposition to the legislation when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed it in January (see 2201200066). He cited issues with cybersecurity vulnerabilities and said, “It’s really an attack on the free enterprise system and going after companies just because they’re successful.” Schumer’s office didn’t comment.

They’ve been trying to pass it for a year, so our concern is the same concern,” said House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. He said the bill over-empowers the FTC and Chair Lina Khan and uses "big government” to “further censor conservatives.” He said “past statements” from Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter reflect their partisanship. “What I support is trying to stop the attacks and censorship of conservatives,” he said. “I don’t think this bill does it. I think it’s only going to exacerbate the problem. We’ve been clear in committee hearings.” House Judiciary passed the bill in June 2021 (see 2106240071).

Grassley is right about the overwhelming support for the bill, House Antitrust Subcommittee ranking member Ken Buck, R-Colo., told us: “You could lose four or five Democrats and have a very comfortable margin.” The reason it hasn’t been brought up could have something to do with the “$30 million a month that Big Tech is dropping in commercials,” he said. Buck expressed frustration over the lack of floor time for another bill, the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act (HR-3460), which sponsors say is noncontroversial. He and House Antitrust Subcommittee ranking member David Cicilline, D-R.I., expected a voice vote on HR-3460 (see 2202090066). Noting the bill’s unanimous Senate passage in June, Buck said it’s “ridiculous” the House hasn’t brought it up. “We’ve got 107 Republicans” and 90% of Democrats on the venue bill in the House, he said. “Bring it to the floor. It’s a suspension bill.”

I knew” Schumer wouldn’t bring S-2992 to the floor, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., an original co-sponsor, told us. “I’d just like to be on the record saying I predicted this. I hope I’m wrong.” Buck noted Schumer was “heckled” at his fundraiser last week when he discussed the bill’s lack of support.

Privacy legislation will need bipartisan agreement in the Senate in order for the House Commerce Committee’s bill to come up in the lower chamber, House Consumer Protection Subcommittee ranking member Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., told us. Commerce passed the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (HR-8152) earlier this month (2207200061). Asked about opposition from California Democrats and potentially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Bilirakis said: “I can’t speak for her, but I think she would allow it to be voted for on the floor. I really do. But again, I think we have to have a deal in the Senate. I don’t believe we’re going to get anything on the floor until we get a deal in the Senate, so it’s not impossible, though.”

We asked Pelosi about the legislation and California opposition while she was leaving an unrelated news conference Thursday morning. She didn’t comment. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has shown no signs of supporting HR-8152, which ranking member Roger Wicker negotiated with House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. “I know Sen. Wicker hasn’t given up in the Senate,” Bilirakis said. “He brought it up yesterday in committee” during markup for two children’s privacy bills and “Cantwell was there” (see 2207270057). Wicker said “we should be voting on this instead of the other bills, and I’m sure the other bills were good, too, but [comprehensive] privacy is a priority for us,” said Bilirakis.

Like Jordan, Rodgers focused attention last week on alleged censorship of conservatives on social media. She cited reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has been coordinating with Big Tech to censor Americans.” The U.S. can’t “allow this administration to be the arbiters of truth online, nor should we outsource our freedoms to TikTok. The answer to speech that we disagree with should always be more speech.” The White House didn’t comment.