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Clock Running Out on Antitrust Bill Targeting Big Tech

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WASHINGTON — Critics of the country’s biggest tech companies branded The last few months have been a “hot antitrust summer” as they hoped Congress would vote on new regulations for Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.

Instead, the chances of a bill being passed before Labor Day are gone. The Senate is expected to take up one last major issue before recess in August, debating and voting on the Democrats’ massive package on climate change, taxation and health care.

The inability to secure the vote is a setback for politicians, activists and regulators who believe that Big Tech dominates commerce, communications and culture too much. After Labor Day, Washington will focus more attention on midterm elections than on major legislation. And if Republicans regain a majority in Congress, regulation is much less likely to be picked up.

“One of the senators actually said to me, ‘You might be ahead of your time.’ Just because you do doesn’t mean your time hasn’t come.’ And one moment your time will come.”

Proponents of Mr. Klobuchar’s bill, the so-called “America’s Innovation and Choice Online Act,” argue that a nationwide reform of antitrust laws would keep big tech companies in check and allow small businesses to thrive. ing. The bill would prohibit companies from prioritizing their own services over those of their competitors. So, for example, Amazon couldn’t put his Amazon Basics battery ahead of the one made by Duracell. Google may need to show its own restaurant reviews in comparable search results to sites like his Yelp.

In May, supporters of the bill cheered when Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Approved by the committee, Klobuchar and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a major Republican co-sponsor, said they have the votes for the bill to succeed if the Senate votes outright.

Tech companies have poured tens of millions of dollars into lobbying against the bill. A corporate-funded group aired ads in battleground states saying the law was unwise in a time of rampant inflation. The chief executives of Google, Apple and Amazon have personally lobbied against the bill.

The industry also said the bill could be interpreted as limiting how much these companies can moderate content, including hateful posts, so that there are unintended consequences to online speech. Supporters of the bill say their concerns are unfounded. In June, four Democratic senators called for the bill to be amended so that it would not be misunderstood.

Supporters of the bill continue to pressure Schumer to put him on the ballot, highlighting the work Schumer’s children have done for big tech companies.

They argued lawmakers must vote on the bill. But at a fundraiser last month, Schumer said he didn’t believe the bill to overcome the filibuster had 60 votes. And he said he wasn’t going to put it on the floor until he had a better sense that it could pass. first reported by Bloomberg.

“All I can say is that Klobuchar was very disappointed when she was led to believe that the issue would be brought up in this hour. We don’t have a lot of time until then,” Grassley said in an interview.

Other Senate priorities, such as a climate, energy and tax package brokered between West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin III and Mr. Schumer, have also put antitrust issues aside. . Delays in work on the Veterans Health Care Act, drastic gun control measures, and chip manufacturing bills dominated the legislative calendar before the sudden settlement proposal on that bill.

Some of the bill’s co-sponsors said the bill is a low priority as they prepare to leave the Capitol later this month. Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazzy Hirono said the focus was on bills that were being debated before the August recess.

Klobuchar said he spoke with Schumer and discussed bringing the bill to a vote in the fall.

“I think he’s committed to working on this and getting this done,” she said. A similar proposal has been made in the House of Representatives and has bipartisan support.

A spokesman for Schumer said in a statement that the majority leader “plans to work with Senator Klobuchar and other supporters to gather the necessary votes and bring them to the ballot.”

Sarah Miller, executive director of the liberal American Economic Liberties Project, said state lawmakers would keep big tech in check last month on Meta if efforts to pass new antitrust laws in Washington failed. It has become more important to

“Fortunately, we don’t have just one sheriff in town, but I believe the ability of the legislature to directly promote fairness and competition in the digital marketplace will continue to be an essential project.”

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