Biden Endorsement of Antitrust Overhaul Should Be a Kiss of Death For Republicans

As politicians look towards the crucial midterm elections in November, the window to pass legislation into law is closing quickly. Republicans appear poised to take at least one chamber of Congress and Democrats have a tight timeline to get legislation passed before that presumably happens. Internal disagreement among Democrats have created setbacks for some progressive policies. Unfortunately, empowering federal agencies through radical antitrust overhaul is still on the table, but Democrats would need Republican support. Providing any assistance would be an enormous mistake for conservatives.

There have been several high profile splits between Democrats in Congress and the administration. Most recently, Democrats expressed concerns over the Biden administration's immigration policies and the lifting of Title 42. There have been several nominees that have failed to make it through the confirmation process, including Neera Tanden and David Weil. It is also hard to forget the amorphous and ever changing Build Back Better bill that appears to be on life support after failing to garner unified support from Democrats.

As Democrats look to pass something before the midterm elections, a radical antitrust overhaul appears to be a contender — specifically, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO/S. 2992) and the Open Apps Market Act (OAMA/S. 2710). While both bills have attracted some Republican support, they both would represent a major win for the progressive left.

AICO would make a number of common business practices an antitrust violation for a selection of large American technology companies. For example, this legislation would prevent integrations of service, like Google Maps appearing in searches and Amazon offering two-day shipping with a Prime membership. Both AICO and OAMA also include interoperability mandates that could threaten consumers’ privacy and security.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who introduced AICO, is reportedly whipping votes for the legislation and attempting to rally support. President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) offered a somewhat lukewarm endorsement, stating they strongly support “the principles and goals animating the legislation.” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo initially faced backlash from progressives for accurately stating the European Union’s Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act would disproportionately harm American businesses but has recently stated she agrees with the DOJ’s endorsement of AICO.

It’s not terribly surprising that progressives would support a radical expansion of government, but why are some Republicans going along with it? Conservatives have called on social media platforms to adopt more free speech principles, but AICO wouldn’t lead to more conservative speech online or greater protections for users. It’s also not a goal shared by the backers of this bill.

The Biden administration announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would launch a Disinformation Governance Board. This effort faced immediate Republican blowback with Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) stating this puts “the free speech rights of Americans at risk.” House Oversight Republicans also previously criticized the Biden administration for “taking affirmative steps to moderate and censor Americans’ speech” about COVID-19. Senator Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to define “health misinformation.”

There was also a stark contrast in reception to the news that Elon Musk would be making a bid to purchase Twitter. Conservatives appeared largely encouraged that Musk would adopt less stringent content moderation policies and make the platform more friendly to conservative users. Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said this deal “is dangerous for our democracy” and called for a wealth tax.

These antitrust bills would drastically expand the reach of the federal government into the tech sector, and Republicans have every reason to be skeptical of progressive’s motivation for doing this. Targeted reforms should be considered, but a radical antitrust overhaul is anything but. Conservatives are already looking at alternative options with the Big Tech Task Force in the House. Empowering the federal government with aggressive antitrust legislation would likely worsen the situation for conservatives.