A key Republican voice on antitrust issues panned the proposed Democratic agenda, signaling diminished chances of bipartisan legislation to curb the power of giant U.S. tech and drug firms advancing during this Congress.
Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, the ranking Republican House Judiciary subcommittee overseeing antitrust issues, partnered with Democrats in June on a slew of antitrust proposals in hopes of a bipartisan crackdown on Big Tech. Three months later, Mr. Buck said on Tuesday he was uncertain whether the antitrust panel had any intention of moving ahead.
“I’m not sure what specific legislation we’re going to take up today or in the future based on the opening statements and the nature of this hearing,” said Mr. Buck at the antitrust subcommittee hearing. “Certainly those of us on this side of the aisle have done our best to work with the chair and others on this committee when it comes to Big Tech and when it comes to reforms in the pharmaceutical industry, but this frankly is baffling to me.”
Tuesday’s hearing was the fourth in a series on “reviving competition,” which featured testimony from law school professors, a union member, a Federal Trade Commission commissioner, and others. Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, said Tuesday that he thought Congress “must explore every path” to creating new economic opportunities.
Mr. Cicilline’s Republican allies sounded more hopeful that Congress would take a more focused approach. Mr. Buck previously joined with Democrats to propose legislation intended to empower state attorneys general to choose the venue for lawsuits against tech companies and make it easier for people to transfer data from large tech companies to their competitors.
As the Biden administration’s economic and policy agenda has come into sharper focus, Mr. Buck said Congress’ time would be better spent examining the administration’s push for more government spending and its impact on greater monetary inflation and corporate taxation.
“[T]inkering around the edges of antitrust is laughable when you look at how far this administration has gone in the wrong direction,” Mr. Buck said.
Republicans also provided a glimpse at how they would use the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel to fight the Biden administration if the GOP wins control of the House in next year’s midterm elections.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, made clear he thought it was time for the committee to probe the “Biden administration’s radical Federal Trade Commission.”
Mr. Jordan said Democrats want to use the FTC to “attack our free enterprise system by overhauling antitrust laws and upsetting precedent that applies to the economy as a whole.”
“This committee ought to be conducting far more oversight of the FTC and how it has moved away from its original mission,” Mr. Jordan said. “The best thing we can do for the American worker is getting Washington off their back.”