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The great enemy of antitrust technology: the calendar

Time is running out in Washington’s bipartisan effort to change the way Big Tech does business by passing new antitrust laws.

Why is this important: The next two months will be pivotal for proponents of tech antitrust bills. If lawmakers don’t approve them before the August recess of Congress, insiders say the outlook is bleak ahead of the midterm elections.

  • High-profile issues like abortion rights, inflation and the war in Ukraine fill lawmakers’ time.

What they say : “There is a natural calendar. Once the summer holidays come, it will be more difficult to focus people on the big issues,” representative David Cicilline (DR.I.), who led the meetings, told Axios. House’s technological antitrust efforts.

  • “It’s really urgent in my opinion,” he said. He expects two bills that have already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass first.
  • Cicilline pointed to growing support for efforts, including Department of Justice and Department of Commerce endorsements, editorials across the country and Europe moving forward with the Digital Markets Act as drivers. Momentum: “Small businesses in Europe will have better protections than those in America…who cannot be allowed to stand.”

Cicilline’s Republican counterpartRep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Told Axios in a statement: “I’m confident we’ll do something before the summer break – there’s too much support in both chambers for any other outcome,” said said Buck.

State of play: Two bills received bipartisan support when they were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, preparing them for possible floor votes.

  • The U.S. Senate’s Online Innovation and Choice Act would ban big tech companies from favoring their own services in an anti-competitive way and accompanies a similar bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee in a marathon last summer.
  • The Open App Markets Act would prohibit operators of app stores like Apple and Google from requiring the use of their own integrated payment systems. A companion House bill was introduced last year but has yet to receive a vote in committee.

Yes, but: Senate bills have not moved forward since early February, despite sponsors’ rush to pass before the summer recess. The Senate also turned its attention to filling a Supreme Court vacancy shortly after the committee advanced the bills.

  • “My bipartisan bill with Sen. Grassley is the first major tech competition bill to move through the Senate since the dawn of the internet,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who leads the Senate efforts, to Axios in an emailed statement. . “I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this to a floor vote as soon as possible.”
  • Klobuchar recently presented his bills to the Democratic caucus seeking support.

The plot: Pressure is mounting on Democratic leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), to get the bills introduced.

  • “Sen. Schumer supports legislation passed by the Judiciary Committee that promotes small business and innovation,” a spokesperson for his office told Axios. “He is working closely with Senator Klobuchar and other Democratic and Republican members to get the votes needed to pass it in the Senate.”

The other side: Apple, Amazon, Meta and Google spent $15.85 million lobbying Congress in the first quarter of 2022, according to lobbying disclosures. They argued that the proposed antitrust laws would compromise national security, compromise user privacy and give China a leg up.

  • The Computer and Communications Industry Association, which receives funding from big tech companies, ran ads about how Senate bills could “break” Amazon Prime.
  • The American Bar Association submitted comments to the Judiciary Committee, calling for changes to the self-preference bill and warning of “unintended and unintended consequences.”

Between the lines: After the Congressional recess in August, lawmakers will focus on campaigning before midterms and are unlikely to pass bipartisan legislation.

  • It’s unclear how much support the antitrust efforts will be able to muster if Republicans regain control of one or both houses. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has yet to back the bills. His office did not respond to a request for comment on whether that has changed.

Meanwhile, Lawmakers are still working on the final version of a bill boosting competition in semiconductors that the industry considers essential and President Biden has urged Congress to pass it.

Our thought bubble: Simply passing a historically uncontroversial bill for the benefit of a national manufacturing company that both sides agree is vital to national security has turned into a Herculean lift for this Congress. It’s a sign of what much more complex antitrust proposals face.

The bottom line“There is a window of opportunity here, and we have to take advantage of it,” Cicilline said.