The House of Representatives passed sweeping antitrust legislation targeting Big Tech with bipartisan support following a Thursday afternoon vote.
The bill, known as the Merger Fee Filing Modernization Act, passed 242 to 184, combining a trio of antitrust bills designed to limit the impact of Big Tech firms by increasing merger application fees to fund stricter antitrust enforcement, requiring companies to disclose foreign subsidies when applying for a merger and exempting antitrust lawsuits brought by state attorneys general from processes that can result in court cases being transferred to districts more favorable to defenders.
The package, passed with 39 Republican votes, was endorsed by the White House on Tuesday as part of its ongoing efforts to beef up antitrust enforcement.
“[T]o vigorously enforce the antitrust laws, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) need the resources to do their jobs,” the White House said in a statement. “Yet even as the number, size, and complexity of mergers has grown, the amount of the filing fees that parties must pay in advance of premerger review by the DOJ and the FTC has not kept pace.”
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The package targets Chinese theft of American intellectual property by requiring companies to disclose all foreign investments when they apply for a merger, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, who supported the package, told the Daily Caller News Foundation prior to the vote.
Buck noted that since the provision requires disclosing all foreign investments, it enables the FTC and DOJ to investigate so-called “dummy corporations” that Chinese firms may own in other countries to avoid the appearance of Chinese influence.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California criticized the package in a letter to her Democratic colleagues, arguing that the exemption for state attorneys general, known on its own as the “State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act”, would be an unnecessary burden to both the businesses and the legal system, and would promote large numbers of politically-motivated lawsuits that might otherwise be consolidated.
Buck said that the Venue Act would eliminate the so-called “home-field advantage” that Big Tech companies currently enjoy in the Northern District of California in a statement shared with the DCNF in advance of the vote.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio opposed the package, taking issue with the beefed up funding for the DOJ and FTC, whom a spokesperson characterized as having “been on a crusade for woke capitalism,” in a statement shared with the DCNF in advance of the vote.
The package does not change the fact that the FTC needs Congressional appropriation to utilize funds, said former senior Senate staffers speaking to the DCNF.