Months have passed since Sen. Chuck Schumer was set to vote for an antitrust bill designed to rein in Big Tech – and his top Republican backer criticizes the gentleman from New York for dragging his feet.
“It’s long overdue for the Majority Leader to introduce our bipartisan antitrust bill cracking down on Big Tech’s anti-competitive behavior,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Post. “We need a certain date for a vote, and I’m calling on Senator Schumer to name one — if not before August recess, then this fall.”
The renewed heat comes as the Senate prepares for its final two legislative weeks before an August recess, after which many members will be consumed by midterm campaigns.
“The Senate has spent weeks legislating in purely partisan ways or naming nominees without consequence,” Grassley said.
Grassley wants Schumer to organize votes for a bill he is championing alongside Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that supporters say would reduce the power of tech giants like Amazon and Meta to stifle the market competition. Axios reported in May that Schumer was planning an “early summer” vote on the bill, but that season has since passed.
While Schumer bided his time, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Google combined spent more than $35 million in the first half of this year on lobbying efforts, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The companies also flooded Beltway’s airwaves with ads opposing antitrust laws and bought ad space in influential newsletters like Politico Playbook.
“Sen. Klobuchar and I have worked meticulously to prepare our legislation for a floor vote,” Grassley said. “Meanwhile, armies of lobbyists for the tech giants continue to mislead our bill. .”
The Internet Innovation and Choice Act – or so-called “non-discrimination bill” – would prevent platforms from “preferring” their content. For example, Amazon would no longer be able to promote its own products over third-party sellers on its e-commerce platform.
While Schumer called for a vote on a bill funding chipmakers and pushed to legalize marijuana, he opposed the antitrust bill. He said he was not ready to put it to a vote until the sponsors proved they had 60 votes to pass it.
Both Klobuchar and Grassley have repeatedly promised they have the necessary votes for the bill – but when the Washington Post earlier this month asked all 100 senators’ offices how they would vote, the vast majority did not. did not answer yes or no.
According to the account of a senior Senate GOP aide, that leaves Grassley and Klobuchar with a “chicken and egg” problem.
According to the aide who asked not to be named, 60 senators will not publicly come out in favor of the bill at this time, especially if they know the bill is not a priority for leaders of either party. But if Schumer puts it to a vote, many senators will cave to the pressure and vote for it, the aide predicted.
“Klobuchar needs commitments to bring to Schumer, but no one wants to be on record until they have to,” the aide said. “A lot of members seem happy to sit on the fence regardless of how they might end up voting.”
Insiders say several Democrats, including California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla would likely vote against the legislation. That means Grassley would need to muster at least a dozen GOP votes to pass the bill.
Still others insist that “neither the Senate nor the House have the votes to pass the legislation.”
Business lobby groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, have made Grassley’s job harder by urging Republicans to vote against the bill and other proposals for decades. month. Both groups took money from Big Tech companies that would be impacted by the bill.
In July, Americans for Tax Reform urged GOP lawmakers to sign a draft letter opposing the bill to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Senate Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The previously unpublished letter claimed the bill would “increase the size and scope of government, worsen conservative censorship, and increase inflationary pressure on American families” and force tech companies into a “mother-can-I relationship.” with the federal government. ”
On the Democratic Party’s left flank, meanwhile, more than a dozen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to Schumer on Friday, writing that two antitrust bills, including the Grassley-Klobuchar bill “are ready for a vote and we urge you to plan to vote on them in the coming weeks.
And a separate coalition of progressive nonprofits, including Fight for the Future and the American Economic Liberties Project, sent another letter to the Majority Leader on Friday, saying he should recuse himself from voting decisions. because two of his daughters work for Meta and Amazon. News of her daughters’ jobs was first reported by The Post.
“Senator Schumer supports this bill and is working with Senator Klobuchar to get the votes,” Angelo Roefaro, a spokesperson for Schumer told The Post.
Yet even if the bills make it through the Senate, their companion bills would also have to make it through the House — which some insiders say could present an even bigger hurdle.
While Schumer said he supported both Klobuchar-Grassley bills, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not, instead saying she supported tech regulation.
Pelosi has come under scrutiny for profiting from these tech companies, as her husband Paul has earned millions by actively trading shares of companies like Google.
A spokesperson for Pelosi did not respond to request for comment.