It’s been months since Senator Chuck Schumer was due to vote on an antitrust bill designed to curb big tech, and his top Republican backer is criticizing the New York gentleman for being slow.
“It is high time for the Majority Leader to pass our bipartisan antitrust bill to combat Big Tech’s anticompetitive behavior,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Post. “We need a specific date for voting, and I urge Senator Schumer to name it – if not before the August break, then this fall.”
The renewed heat comes as the Senate prepares for its last two weeks before the August recess, after which many members will be absorbed into midterm campaigns.
“The Senate has spent weeks either on purely partisan legislation or on non-essential candidates,” grumbled Grassley.
Grassley wants Schumer to pass votes on a bill he is pushing with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that supporters say would weaken tech giants like Amazon and Meta’s grip on market competition. In May, Axios reported that Schumer planned to vote on the bill “in early summer,” but that season has since come and gone.
While Schumer bided his time, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Google together spent more than $35 million in lobbying efforts alone in the first half of this year, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The companies also flooded the Beltway with anti-antitrust commercials and bought up advertising space on influential newsletters such as the Politico Playbook.
“Sep. Klobuchar and I have worked diligently to prepare our legislation for a vote,” Grassley said. “All this time, armies of tech giant lobbyists continue to mislead us about our bill.”
The Internet Innovation and Choice Act — or the so-called “non-discrimination law” — will prevent platforms from “self-selecting” their content. For example, Amazon will no longer be able to promote its products over third-party sellers on its e-commerce platform.
While Schumer announced a vote on the chip maker funding bill and pushed for the legalization of marijuana, he objected to 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.
Klobuchar and Grassley have repeatedly promised they have the required votes to pass the bill, but when the Washington Post asked all 100 senator offices earlier this month how they would vote, the answer was overwhelmingly neither yes nor no.
That leaves Grassley and Klobuchar with a “chicken and egg” problem, according to one senior GOP Senate aide.
The 60 senators are not going to publicly support the bill right now, according to an aide who asked not to be named, especially if they know the bill is not a priority for either party’s leadership. But if Schumer puts it to a vote, many senators will give in to pressure and vote for him, the aide predicted.
“Klobuchar needs a commitment to hand over to Schumer, but no one wants to make it official until they have to,” the aide said. “Many members seem happy to continue sitting on the fence, no matter how they may end up voting.”
Insiders say several Democrats, including California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, are likely to vote against the bill. That means Grassley will have to garner at least a dozen GOP votes to get the bill through.
Still others insist that “neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives have the votes to pass the bill.”
Business lobbying groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, made Grassley’s job harder by urging Republicans to vote against the bill and other proposals for months. Both groups have taken money from big tech companies that will be affected by the bill.
In July, Americans for Tax Reform called on GOP lawmakers to sign a draft letter against a bill addressed to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
The previously undisclosed letter argued that the bill would “increase the size and scope of government, worsen conservative censorship and increase inflationary pressures on American families” and force tech companies into a “mommy relationship” with the federal government. ”
Meanwhile, on the Democratic left, more than a dozen members of the Congressional Progressive Group sent a letter to Schumer on Friday saying two antitrust bills, including the Grassley-Klobuchar bill, are “ready to vote, and we urge you to schedule a vote.” vote on them in the next few weeks.”
And a separate coalition of progressive nonprofits, including the Fight for the Future and the American Economic Freedoms Project, sent another letter to the majority leader on Friday, arguing that he should forgo voting decisions because his two daughters are working. on Meta and Amazon. The news of his daughters’ work was first reported by The Post.
“Senator Schumer supports this bill and is working with Senator Klobuchar to get votes,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Rofaro told The Post.
However, even if the bills get through the Senate, their accompanying bills will also need to get through the House of Representatives, which some insiders say could be an even bigger hurdle.
While Schumer said he supported both Klobuchar-Grasley bills, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did not, instead saying more generally that she supported technical regulation.
Pelosi has come under fire for profiting from these tech companies, as her husband Paul has made millions by actively trading stocks in companies like Google.
A spokesperson for Pelosi did not respond to a request for comment.
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