Jonathan Kanter speaks while Merrick Garland stands by

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jonathan Kanter—who heads the Justice Department's Antitrust Division—speaks while Attorney General Merrick Garland stands by at a press conference on May 23, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

New Funding Bill Shows House Republicans 'Want Monopolists to Win'

"House Democrats must take a firm stand against this problematic proposal and offer an amendment in markup to give the Antitrust Division the resources necessary to enforce the law," said one campaigner.

Anti-monopoly campaigners on Tuesday blasted House Republicans over a bill that would dramatically reduce funding for the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and impose caps on how much the crucial agency gets from merger filing fees.

The House Appropriations Committee proposal contains sweeping spending cuts, including a $40 million reduction in the DOJ Antitrust Division's budget. The $192.7 million allocated for the division is $95 million less than requested by U.S. President Joe Biden.

"House Republicans are not fully funding the Antitrust Division—this is a pro-Ticketmaster, pro-Google, pro-Apple, and pro-UnitedHealth agenda," Morgan Harper, director of policy and advocacy at the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), said in a statement.

"This is a pro-Ticketmaster, pro-Google, pro-Apple, and pro-UnitedHealth agenda."

In addition to the budget cut, the bill contains one rider that would cap the amount of fees the Antitrust Division gets from the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act and another that would effectively ban the agency from hiring more staff.

The proposed bill "would openly and deliberately disregard the will of Congress by limiting the DOJ's access to these funds," AELP said, arguing that House Republicans "want monopolists to win."

"With cases against some of the biggest monopolies in the economy already in progress or looming, the additional funds would allow the division to hire more attorneys and staff to effectively enforce the law," the group added.

According to Harper:

Despite having even fewer attorneys than it did in the 1970s, [Assistant Attorney General] Jonathan Kanter's Antitrust Division is securing unprecedented wins to turn the tide on market concentration across the economy. Appropriators should be bolstering the Antitrust Division in this moment, not kneecapping it by limiting hiring and reducing funds Congress authorized through the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act.

"House Democrats must take a firm stand against this problematic proposal and offer an amendment in markup to give the Antitrust Division the resources necessary to enforce the law," Harper added.

The GOP proposal comes amid a flurry of antitrust action by the Biden administration, whose DOJ has investigated UnitedHealth Group, the world's largest health insurance company, and sued Apple, Google, and Ticketmaster. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission under Chair Lina Khan has taken on Amazon and other corporations.

"The DOJ Antitrust Division has won victories in court against employers that sought to suppress workers' pay and blocked harmful mergers in the airline industry," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said while addressing U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland during a hearing earlier this month.

"You're working to lower food prices by targeting anti-competitive practices and mergers in the grocery industry and the meat processing industry, and the Antitrust Division successfully ended a price fixing scheme in DVD and Blu-ray sales and prevented video game companies from suppressing wages in e-sports," she continued.

"These are incredible accomplishments, and you're also working to promote competition in the live music industry," Jayapal added, referring to the lawsuit filed last month by the DOJ and 30 state attorneys general against Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

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