Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks to the press

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks to the press on November 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Senate Panel Approves Antitrust Bill to Rein in Big Tech

"A bipartisan group of senators just stated with a clear voice that Big Tech is too powerful."

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved antitrust legislation targeting corporate behemoths such as Google, Apple, and Amazon, a move that anti-monopoly campaigners hailed as a positive step toward reining in Big Tech.

Formally known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the bipartisan legislation cleared the judiciary panel by an overwhelming vote of 16-6 despite fierce lobbying by Google and Apple, whose chief executives personally reached out to lawmakers to express their opposition to the bill.

If passed into law, the measure--sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)--would prohibit major tech platforms from favoring their own products and services over those of other companies, a practice known as self-preferencing.

The six lawmakers who voted against the bill in committee were all Republicans: Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

"This was an even stronger vote than we expected--and notably bodes well about the ability to overcome a filibuster on the floor," said Ginger Quintero-McCall, legal director at Demand Progress. "It will also provide momentum as the debate shifts back to the House."

Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, said in a statement that "despite millions of lobbying dollars by monopolists spent to influence lawmakers, a bipartisan group of senators just stated with a clear voice that Big Tech is too powerful."

"With growing bipartisan appetite to break the power of Big Tech," Miller added, "the Senate should continue to reassert its power over the handful of men whose corporations undermine economic dynamism, eviscerate the free press, and threaten our democracy itself."

While she ultimately voted to advance the legislation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)--who represents Silicon Valley--criticized the bill and suggested that Biden administration officials share her concerns.

That prompted a sharp response from Klobuchar, who accused Feinstein of spreading false information about the administration's stance.

Watch the exchange:

The White House has yet to say whether it supports the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, but--as CNBCreported--the Biden administration "has generally pushed for measures that lessen concentration of power and has broadly supported competition reform."

"On Wednesday, top White House officials met with a group of companies including Big Tech critics Sonos and Yelp to hear their concerns about barriers to competition," the outlet noted. "The tech industry has launched an all-out attack on the legislative effort."

In a tweet following Thursday's vote, Klobuchar argued that "right now, Big Tech gets to call all the shots online."

"Does this benefit consumers or small businesses trying to compete? No," she wrote. "The good news: My bipartisan bill to create commonsense digital rules of the road passed the Judiciary Committee today and is closer to becoming law."

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