In a 16-6 vote Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced S. 2992, the “American Choice and Innovation Online Act.”
While Democrats and the media are painting this as a major step forward for the legislation, in reality the markup showed that S. 2992 is nowhere close to being ready for a floor vote. Lawmakers proposed a staggering 117 amendments to the legislation – clear evidence that a lot of work on the bill remains to be done.
Just like its House companion, S. 2992 was rushed to a full committee markup without a legislative hearing. Members had no public opportunity to debate or discuss the ramifications of the legislation before today’s markup.
Even supporters acknowledged that the bill was a work in progress. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) raised doubts that self-preferencing was even a problem that Congress needed to solve, saying that he was “…not yet convinced that this bill as currently drafted will actually provide the net benefit to consumers that we’re seeking.” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said that he anticipates sweeping changes to the bill before a full Senate vote, and if he’s not involved in making those changes, told lawmakers that “[he’ll] be off the bill faster than you can say Big Tech.”
Lawmakers across the spectrum expressed confusion over which companies the bill will actually cover. The original version targeted companies with a market capitalization of $550 billion and 50 million monthly users. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) manager’s amendment expanded this definition to include privately-held companies with $30 billion in annual revenue and companies with over a billion monthly users. This new covered platform designation goes far beyond Big Tech and includes companies in the grocery, professional services, and agriculture sectors.
In defense of the consumer welfare standard and a consumer-based approach to antitrust regulation, six Senators voted against moving S. 2992 out of committee: Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
While antitrust crusaders may tout today’s markup as a victory, any fair observer would conclude that S. 2992 is an incredibly flawed piece of legislation that is nowhere near ready for the Senate floor.