New Punchbowl News Poll: Klobuchar Antitrust Bill “Isn’t Terribly Popular”

The House passed the “Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act” (H.R. 3843) last week, legislation that would raise fees on larger companies engaging in M&A activity and prohibit companies from requesting a venue change when a state attorney general brings an antitrust suit. 

Lawmakers who’ve been pushing for another bill, the “American Innovation and Choice Online Act” (S. 2992), have cited H.R. 3843’s passage as evidence that there is appetite for more ambitious antitrust reforms in the 117th Congress. A new poll from Punchbowl News and the Locust Street Group shows that AICOA is still broadly unpopular among lawmakers and highly unlikely to pass.

AICOA enacts a litany of restrictions on business activity for companies above a government-determined size. The bill targets “self-preferencing,” where a platform company promotes its own product or service next to competing businesses on the platform. 

Punchbowl News asked senior Congressional aides if their bosses supported AICOA. The results are striking – only 26 percent of aides said their boss supports the bill. 41 percent of Democratic aides say their boss supports the bill, and just 11 percent of Republican aides say their boss supports the bill. 57 percent of aides said they didn’t know if their boss supports AICOA. 

The Punchbowl poll dovetails with a survey the Washington Post conducted in July showing that only 17 Senators support the bill, well short of the 60 Senate votes necessary to avert a legislative filibuster. 

The lack of support and interest in AICOA from lawmakers mirrors the attitude of the American people toward new antitrust regulation. A recent poll from Echelon Insights shows just how little of a priority antitrust reform is for voters, with inflation clocking in as the top priority for Americans. 85 percent of Americans believe that proposals like the Klobuchar bill would make inflation worse. Only 1 percent of voters say tech regulation is a major priority – when asked about specific proposals, only 5 percent of voters named antitrust as a priority.

The Echelon poll aligns with another recent poll from the Trafalgar Group, which shows a whopping 0.1 percent of voters view antitrust reform as their top priority. Zero percent of voters ages 18-64 named antitrust reform as their vote-moving issue. A recent Gallup survey of 2,000 Americans showed inflation again as the top priority – antitrust reform did not rank. This is hardly the grassroots momentum that bill sponsors brag about.

After H.R. 3843 passed last week, antitrust activists celebrated it as a huge win for their cause and evidence that momentum exists for S. 2992. In reality, H.R. 3843’s passage is evidence of the opposite. If AICOA had broad-based support, it would have been folded into this package.

Congress has a lot on its plate during the upcoming lame-duck session. Last week’s vote was the antitrust vote in the 117th Congress, and politicians know it.