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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters on December 14, 2021. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'This Is About Corruption': Fury as Senate Poised to Delay Antitrust Vote

"It's time for Sen. Schumer to decide if he wants to be remembered for helping billionaires wreck democracy or for acting like the leader he claims to be," said one campaigner.

Jake Johnson

Progressive anti-monopoly campaigners expressed dismay and outrage Friday following a news report indicating that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—a major beneficiary of Big Tech campaign cash—is likely to delay a vote on bipartisan antitrust legislation until after the midterm elections.

TIME reported late Thursday that key lawmakers involved in the effort to get the American Innovation and Choice Online Act over the finish line "don't expect" Schumer (D-N.Y.) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote ahead of the November elections, throwing the stalled measure's prospects into further doubt.

"So much for that summer vote on antitrust legislation."

One unnamed senior Democratic aide told the outlet that there is "no chance" the Senate votes on the bill before the midterms.

"Let's make one thing clear: this is not about a 'busy legislative calendar' or 'competing priorities' or 'not having the votes,'" responded Evan Greer, director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future. "This is about corruption, plain and simple, and the nauseating influence of Big Tech money in D.C."

"It's time for Sen. Schumer to decide if he wants to be remembered for helping billionaires wreck democracy or for acting like the leader he claims to be, standing up to monopolists and corporate bullies, and advancing bipartisan legislation that leads us to a better future," Greer added.

Sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is aimed at preventing huge online companies such as Amazon and Google from using their platforms to give their own products an unfair advantage, an anti-competitive practice known as self-preferencing. The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in January by a vote of 16-6.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is also hoping to pass the Open App Markets Act, a separate but related bill designed to prevent self-preferencing by Apple and other dominant players in the app sphere.

Big Tech, an increasingly powerful force in U.S. politics, is furiously opposed to both bills and has lobbied hard against them, claiming the measures pose privacy concerns and would potentially damage the country's national security—criticisms that the legislation's supporters adamantly reject as industry "lies."

Since 2021, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta have spent nearly $100 million lobbying against antitrust efforts. Some of the tech industry's cash, according to Bloomberg, has flowed to Schumer, who originally pledged to hold a vote on the antitrust bills by early summer.

"After receiving no money from any of the top lobbyists for Apple Inc., Inc., or Alphabet Inc. in the two previous election cycles going back to 2017, Schumer's attracted some $30,000 in direct donations to his campaign from the lobbyists and executives of the companies opposed to a bill that would curb how the platforms operate," Bloomberg reported last month.

On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly visited the U.S. Capitol to meet with Republican and Democratic lawmakers about the antitrust legislation.

"So much for that summer vote on antitrust legislation," lamented Maria Langholz, communications director at Demand Progress.

TIME's reporting on the likely delay of the antitrust vote comes amid anger over Senate Democrats' decisions this week to push off votes on same-sex marriage and a congressional stock trading ban until after the midterms.

Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate's antitrust subcommittee, insisted in a statement to TIME that Schumer is "committed to working with me for a vote, and whether this bill comes to the floor before or after the midterms, we will take action."

"Against all odds, we have passed a bill out of committee to take action to protect consumers and small businesses and put rules of the road in place for dominant tech platforms," Klobuchar said. "We have a strong bipartisan coalition in both the House and Senate pushing this bill forward, and the American people are on our side."

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