Can Republicans Ever Fight Big Tech? Last Week Gave Us Our First Clue

Oct 7, 2022 | Political News

Something unusual happened on Capitol Hill last week: The Big Tech companies, their hundreds of lobbyists, and their well-funded network of policy groups took a loss. The House of Representatives successfully passed a small package of antitrust reform bills designed, in part, to limit gamesmanship and increase scrutiny on the largest, most powerful corporations in world history.

Now, they didn’t save the world or anything; the bills the House just passed are small, procedural, and bureaucratic in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, they are very important.

One bill requires firms undergoing a merger to disclose whether they receive funding from the Chinese government. (Sounds smart enough.)

The second bill makes it easier for state antitrust enforcers to oversee the corporate giants among them by letting states have their antitrust cases heard in local courts, rather than forcing cases to be moved to distant jurisdictions. (A deeply American idea.)

The third bill increases the fees billion-dollar companies must pay to have their mergers reviewed by antitrust enforcers at the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission.
Those second and third bills have already passed the Senate. It’s nearly certain all three of these will become law.

For years, we’ve heard tough-sounding rhetoric from both parties about challenging our biggest tech megacorporations. Both sides have been saying “break ’em up” since before Donald Trump even entered office. Now, Congress is finally rumbling into action.

Seriously: This is the first step they’ve taken. Google went public 18 years ago; Facebook hit a billion users 10 years ago; Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in 2018, and its first $3 trillion company a few months ago, but this package of bills we just told you about represents the first affirmative acknowledgment by Congress that the power of the tech platforms must be reckoned with.

Yet in spite of the general agreement among Republicans that Big Tech firms pose an existential threat to our system of self-government, these bills were met with fierce and often acrimonious resistance from most of the GOP. Two hundred and seven Republicans voted on these bills, but only 39 of them — less than 1:5 — voted in favor.

Conservatives both in and outside of Congress were likewise split. Opposition to the bills was led by congressional firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan, while conservative stalwarts like Congressmen Chip Roy, Ken Buck, Paul Gosar, and Jim Banks voted in favor. The Heritage Foundation endorsed the legislative package as a “requisite starting point to rebalance the relationship between American citizens and the Big Tech companies that abuse them.” American Principles Project backed the bills too.