Republicans and Democrats on the House antitrust panel share concerns about the “anticompetitive behavior” of companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, even as they remain split on recommendations from a yearlong investigation, said a GOP member of the subcommittee.
“I think that’s really historic,” Representative Ken Buck told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “I think it’s really important to acknowledge that Republicans and Democrats have come together to recognize the problems.”
Technology giants are facing mounting criticism on both sides of the political aisle, but partisan splits on the nature of concerns and the possible solutions have so far prevented broad agreements on competition, privacy and the handling of controversial content.
Buck said that he didn’t know of any GOP colleagues who would be joining the upcoming, Democratic-led report emerging from the investigation, which is expected to run at least 350 pages, but he believed there was “a lot of overlap.”
Despite the split, Buck said he sees the outlines of compromise emerging on competition for 2021.
“I’m agreeing to 330 pages of it,” said Buck, who authored a response to the majority report, highlighting its conclusions on the conduct of Amazon, Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. In July, the chief executives of the four companies testified before the panel, which is led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
Buck’s draft report, which was obtained by Bloomberg, noted that he agreed with some recommendations from Cicilline’s staff, such as increasing resources for federal antitrust enforcers. However, he said its centerpiece proposal to ban tech companies from both owning and dealing on their own marketplaces is a non-starter.
Buck said that the battle between well-heeled tech companies on the one hand and the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on the other was “a David and Goliath situation,” and that his Republican colleagues agreed with the need to beef up resources for the federal antitrust enforcers.
He added that some other Republican members of the committee were considering joining his response. A possible response from Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that includes the antitrust panel, may include a focus on his allegations that Big Tech companies systematically silence conservatives, Buck said.
Jordan is encouraging other members not to join Cicilline’s report, a person familiar with the matter said.
Buck also said he worried that some of the Democratic recommendations could hurt start-ups’ potential for growth and spoil investor interest in them, and that he wanted to avoid a new agency to regulate tech companies like utilities.
Still, he wants to see changes in the markets, saying the way the biggest tech companies “have treated smaller companies is really reprehensible.”
“I’m hoping that some of these changes will foster innovation,” he said.
— With assistance by David McLaughlin
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