The Center for American Progress hosted Senator Klobuchar and the Honorable Robert Reich for a conversation on the state of competition in the U.S. economy and its implications for our society
Conversation comes on the same day as the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights holds hearing
WASHINGTON – Today, the Center for American Progress hosted Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and the Honorable Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, for a conversation on the state of competition in the U.S. economy and its implications for our society. Klobuchar and Reich discussed several pieces of legislation to modernize antitrust enforcement, including Klobuchar’s Merger Enforcement Improvement Act and the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act.
“My goal is to make antitrust cool again and make people realize that we are in—not just heading into—another gilded age of consolidation,” Klobuchar said. “When you look at [rising] prices, lack of choices in certain areas, lack of innovation, no competition… you just have companies relying on their own products. Why would they develop new products if they have a monopoly on the market?”
“Antitrust has to become part of the political discussion. What’s really important over decades is what’s happening to consumers. We can’t just sit back and do nothing,” she added.
“Antitrust is not only vital to maintaining capitalism and maintaining markets, it’s the sole alternative we have to regulation,” Reich said. “You see something has to be done.”
In her role as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar will lead a hearing today titled, “Does America Have a Monopoly Problem?: Examining Concentration and Competition in the US Economy.” The event will be held at 2:30pm ET in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226.
Click here for video of the conversation at the Center for American Progress.
Click here for a livestream of the hearing.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has championed efforts to protect consumers, promote competition, and fight consolidation in several industries including the agriculture, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical industry. She has led the fight against anticompetitive conduct in the pharmaceutical industry that increase prescription drug prices, including sponsoring multiple pieces of legislation, including the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act to prevent abusive tactics that prevent affordable drugs from entering the market and the bipartisan Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act to crack down on anti-competitive pay-offs in which branded companies pay their generic competitors not to compete as part of a patent settlement. She has called for strong antitrust review and enforcement to protect consumers from mergers that raise prices or harm competition, including the Comcast/Time Warner Cable, AT&T/Time Warner Inc., Anheuser-Busch/Miller-Coors, and T-Mobile/Sprint, and consolidation in the agricultural industry and the online travel industry. She has also led the call to protect the independence and integrity of the antitrust enforcement agencies from political interference by the Trump administration.
The Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act of 2019 would restore the original purpose of the Clayton Antitrust Act to promote competition and protect American consumers. The bill would strengthen the current legal standard to help stop harmful consolidation that may materially lessen competition. It would clarify that a merger could violate the statute if it gives a company “monopsony” power to unfairly lower the prices it pays or wages it offers because of lack of competition among buyers or employers. The bill further strengthens the law to guard against harmful “mega-mergers” and deals that substantially increase market concentration, shifting the burden to the merging companies to prove that their consolidation does not harm competition. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Markey (MA), Blumenthal (CT), Booker (NJ), and Gillibrand (NY).
Klobuchar has also led the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act. Antitrust enforcement agencies need adequate tools and resources to address the threat of economic concentration, promote competition, and protect consumers. It would update merger filing fees for the first time since 2001, lowering the burden on small- and medium-sized businesses, and ensuring that larger deals pay their fair share while also raising revenues. It would also provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. Senators Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Mazie Hirono (HI), Dick Durbin (IL), Cory Booker (NJ), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Angus King (VT), Patrick Leahy (VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) are cosponsors of the bill.