Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) on Wednesday slammed a package of bills that would empower regulators to go after tech monopolies, calling it "an unprecedented expansion of big government."
Issa’s comments followed a lengthy House Judiciary Committee markup of five bipartisan antitrust bills targeting tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. The bills would bar most mergers and acquisitions by these companies and charge the Federal Trade Commission with more aggressive oversight of anti-competitive behavior. According to Issa, these bills give regulators undue power without addressing the real problem with tech companies.
"This legislative approach sidesteps the singular Big Tech crisis of our time: the relentless targeting of Americans’ free speech and daily censorship of conservatives online," Issa told the Washington Free Beacon.
Republicans are increasingly split on how to regulate big tech companies. Some, like Issa and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), focus primarily on censorship. Others—including Rep. Ken Buck (R., Colo.), who cosponsored all five bills—believe lawmakers should focus on fighting big tech’s anti-competitive practices.
Republican critics worry that the bipartisan package would give the Biden administration undue regulatory power. Issa warned in a memo that the rules could extend to large companies beyond big tech.
But liberal and libertarian critics have attacked from the opposite side, saying the bills single out successful U.S. companies for punishment. The Progressive Policy Institute’s Alec Stapp said "the subcommittee bills target big tech firms instead of probing economic concentration across the U.S. economy."
Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas) supported the bills but said he was "conflicted" over giving the FTC more power to choose its targets. During the markup, Roy called for an amendment that would ban the FTC from selectively enforcing policies based on race. The amendment received full Republican backing but was defeated by Democrats.
The legislative package has split longtime conservative allies in Washington, D.C. Mike Davis, a longtime Republican operative and big tech critic, called McCarthy and Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) "antitrust paper tigers" for opposing the package. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation denounced the bill, warning of a "Big Tech-federal government nexus."
During the markup, Buck defended the FTC, saying, "This agency is tasked with something that is essential, something that President Trump and others have talked about … and that is to rein in big tech."