House committee approves sweeping tech antitrust package

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The House Judiciary Committee passed a package of six big tech antitrust bills on Thursday after 23 hours of debate. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

The House Judiciary Committee passed a package of six big tech antitrust bills on Thursday after 23 hours of debate. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- Members of the House judiciary committee on Thursday approved all six bills included in an antitrust package seeking to limit the power of major technology companies.

After about 23 hours of debate beginning Wednesday, lawmakers advanced the final of the six bills in a 21-20 vote on Thursday with two Republicans joining Democrats in voting to advance the bill while four Democrats opposed it.

The bill passed on Thursday would grant federal regulators the ability to sue to break up large tech companies whose roles as operators of a platform present "an irreconcilable conflict of interest" in other lines of business.

It places pressure on companies such as Amazon and Apple, which run a marketplace while also selling its own products, and Google, which serves videos in its search engine while offering its own video service through YouTube.

Other bills included in the package would seek to keep large tech companies from purchasing rising competitors, giving their own products and services preferences over their competitors, and make it easier for products from different companies to work together.

Judiciary antitrust subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., expressed support for the package earlier in the markup process on Wednesday.

"Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are gatekeepers to the online economy," Cicilline said. "They bury or buy rivals and abuse their monopoly powers -- conduct that is harmful to consumers, competition, innovation and our democracy."

The debate dredged up conflict within the parties as a group of bipartisan California lawmakers including Democrats Zoe Lofgren, Eric Swalwell, and Lou Correa along with Republicans Darrell Issa and Tom McClintock opposed parts of the package.

"The package poses harm to American consumers and the U.S. economy and left members on both sides of the aisle with basic questions that have yet to be answered," they wrote in a joint statement.

Lofgren said the package would "metaphorically take a grenade and just roll it into the tech economy and just blow it up, and see what happens" while Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who sponsored one of the bills countered saying "the grenade that is being thrown right now is being thrown at small businesses."

Apple, Google and Amazon released statements alleging the bills would harm their products and jobs within the industry, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying Apple CEO Tim Cook called her to say they would hamper innovation.

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