Republicans squabble over bills targeting tech giants ahead of House vote

Republicans are fighting amongst themselves over proposals aimed at giving antitrust enforcers more power to rein in tech giants ahead of a House vote expected later this week.

The package of three bills is backed by Republicans in the House and Senate, but House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is railing against the bills, signaling the GOP will likely be split in the vote.

“Do you think we should give the Biden DOJ [Department of Justice] and FTC [Federal Trade Commission] more money? Do you trust they won’t use the money to target conservatives? Do you think [President] Joe Biden, [Attorney General] Merrick Garland, and [FTC Chairwoman] Lina Khan have your best interests at heart? No, No, No,” Jordan tweeted on Tuesday.

Jordan speaking out against the three bills set for a vote this week also signals that if supporters aren’t successful in passing the package, or other proposals aimed at revamping antitrust laws to target tech giants, they may face little chance of moving forward if the GOP wins back the majority of the chamber in the 2022 midterms.

The House is expected to vote on the package of three bills Thursday evening or Friday, according to a spokesperson for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.

The three bills together would update filing fees for mergers to reduce them for smaller firms and increase them for larger ones that require more in depth reviews, allow state attorneys general to select their venue when enforcing antitrust laws and use the merger notification process to require parties to disclose subsidies they have received from countries that pose a risk to the U.S., including China.

A tweet from the House Judiciary GOP account also questioned the motive of the bills, portraying it as a partisan push to “target conservatives.”

“Democrats want to set aside more money for the Biden FTC and DOJ to target conservatives. Do you REALLY trust they’ll use that money wisely?” the account tweeted Tuesday.

Buck fired back, showcasing support for the bills from Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa), as well as the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.

“Last time I checked, @Heritage, @SenMikeLee, @SenTomCotton, @ChuckGrassley , & @approjectare not democrats. I’m not a democrat either,” Buck tweeted.

Grassley, Cotton and Lee issued a statement urging their House GOP colleagues to vote for the bills.

“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. We call on all of our colleagues in the House of Representatives to strongly support this package,” they said in a joint statement.

The GOP infighting comes after more than a year of Buck and House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee Chairman Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) pushing for a vote on bills aimed at revamping antitrust laws.

Two of the bills poised for a House vote this week, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act and the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act, advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support as part of a marathon markup last June.

When the bills advanced out of the Judiciary Committee last year, they faced opposition from some Democrats — mainly those hailing from California, where many of the tech giants are based — meaning Democrats will likely need some Republicans to get the bills across the finish line.

Four of the other bills that advanced along with them have yet to be called for a floor vote, including the American Choice and Innovation Online Act and the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, which also have versions that have advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Those two bills are among the most high-profile from both critics and supporters. One aims to limit tech giants from preferencing their own products and services over rivals’. The other aims to put in place regulations on dominant app stores to mitigate their power over app companies.

Supporters of those bills have been pushing for floor votes in the House and Senate, doubling down on the fact that this may be Congress’s best chance at passing this legislation.

Buck, Grassley, Cicilline and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in June made a push for a summer vote, but the bills have yet to be scheduled for a vote in either chamber.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.