On the Record: Media Reports Highlight Controversial Senate Committee Vote on S. 2992

Washington, D.C. (01/21/2022) – Multiple media reports have noted the sweeping concerns senators on both sides of the aisle raised when the Senate Judiciary Committee considered S. 2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Although the committee formally moved the bill forward yesterday, a majority of the committee members raised wide-ranging concerns about the legislation, from its implications on national security, international competitiveness, data security, American consumers and businesses, and more.

Axios, Tech antitrust bill headed to Senate floor, 1/20/22:

What they’re saying: During an at-times contentious hearing, a number of senators, including California Democrats (who ended up voting to advance the bill out of committee) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said they had large concerns about the bill. Others said they would support it, but that it needs further work before a full Senate vote….

Reality check: Getting antitrust legislation done is a goal for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, but as the party struggles with key priorities like major voting rights and social spending bills passed, it won’t be easy.

Washington Post, Senate advances antitrust legislation, despite reservations from California Democrats, 1/20/22:

A Senate committee on Thursday voted to advance antitrust legislation targeting the tech industry, following a debate that exposed fault lines within the Democratic Party over the future of tech regulation. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 16-6 vote, with lawmakers from both parties calling for future amendments to the bill….

But Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both California Democrats, revealed serious reservations about the effect the bill would have on companies and consumers in their home state. Feinstein, who initially said she intended to oppose the bill, warned that it unfairly singled out a handful of companies and said it could introduce new privacy risks to consumers.

“It’s difficult to see the justification for a bill that regulates the behavior of only a handful of companies, while allowing everyone else to continue engaging in that exact same behavior,” she said.

She also raised concerns that it’s “very dangerous” legislation that could advantage tech companies’ global rivals, and warned the bill causes “very significant security concerns.” She suggested the bill would prevent Apple from ensuring apps were safe before consumers download them. Apple had warned the committee of such trade-offs earlier this week, according to a letter from a company executive to senators viewed by The Post.

Padilla also raised similar concerns, saying the current version of the bill doesn’t “completely hit the mark.” Both California senators ultimately voted to advance the bill out of committee.

The debate highlighted the continued divisions as Democrats attempt to follow through on their long-running promise to rein in the tech industry through updates to antitrust law. The clock is ticking on these efforts as the 2022 midterm elections approach, and it becomes increasingly uncertain that they will be able to maintain their control of both chambers of Congress.

The Hill, Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products, 1/20/22:

And although the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was approved by a 16-6 margin, many supporters expressed reservations about its current composition and the bill may undergo major changes before reaching the Senate floor.

Wall Street Journal, Senate Panel Approves Antitrust Bill Restricting Big Tech Platforms, 1/20/22:

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act moves next to the Senate floor, where several senators said they wanted to see additional changes before backing the measure. Thursday’s 16-6 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee showed the bill had bipartisan support but also raised bipartisan concerns.

The legislation “is specifically designed to target a small number of specific companies, most of which are headquartered in my home state,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who criticized elements of the bill along with fellow California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla. “It’s difficult to see the justification for a bill that regulates the behavior of only a handful of companies while allowing everyone else to continue engaging in that exact same behavior.”

Washington Post, The Technology 202: Senate’s tech antitrust push notches a win, but major hurdles loom, 1/20/22:

...[J]ust like in the House, Senate lawmakers face a narrow margin to get their legislation passed and will need to overcome significant bipartisan objections.

After nearly three hours of debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced to the floor legislation that would ban dominant digital platforms from favoring their products over that of their competitors, a critical piece of lawmakers’ broader antitrust agenda. The push overcame a lobbying blitz by the tech giants that attacked the vote as “rushed” and ill-conceived.

While the proposal moved out of committee by a vote of 16 to 6, earning the backing of all 11 of the panel’s Democrats plus five Republicans, the tally belied the extent to which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have significant reservations about the bill.

To learn more about what critiques senators offered, click here

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