Lawmakers urge swift floor vote on legislation
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Ken Buck (R-CO) held a press conference highlighting how the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to restore competition online, will lower costs for consumers, help small businesses, and restore competition to digital markets. The lawmakers called for a swift floor vote on the legislation, following Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) pledge that the bill will receive a Senate vote early this summer.
“At its core, this [legislation] is about lowering costs for consumers and helping competitive business. And despite all the money being spent against us, we have momentum because the bill is pro-competition and it's common sense,” said Klobuchar.
“Big Tech companies want to protect the status quo, which allows them to expand their influence over our decisions, whether you’re a small businessperson or a consumer,” said Grassley. “If we want action, we need a Senate vote and we need that Senate vote to be soon.”
“The American Innovation and Choice Online Act will make digital markets in the United States more competitive, more innovative and more secure. That’s why the bill is widely popular with American consumers and businesses,” said Cicilline.
“This bill has to pass…and we have to be able to tell the American people that Congress works and we are working on their behalf and that we care about them,” said Buck.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act has gained momentum in recent weeks, earning the support of the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, small business organizations such as Main Street Alliance and Small Business Rising, and a coalition of small and mid-sized technology companies including Yelp, Sonos, Patreon, and DuckDuckGo.
In February, the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 16-6, making it the first major bill on technology competition to advance to the Senate floor since the dawn of the Internet. The House companion legislation, led by Cicilline and Buck, passed the House Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 24-20 last July.
Thank you so much for joining us. And I want to thank Senator Grassley, who's been such a great leader on this issue – worked with me on it from the very beginning. Also, Congressman Cicilline and Congressman Buck, who led an incredible 18 month investigation on tech in the House of Representatives which really formed the fundamental document that helped us to work on this issue. And we're here to talk about the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. As you know, in the Senate, it has broad bipartisan support. The original cosponsors, which Samantha Bee once called the Ocean's Eleven of cosponsors – that would make Grassley George Clooney – include, in addition to the two of us, Senator Durbin, Senator Graham, Warner, Kennedy Blumenthal, Booker, Lummis, Hirono, Hawley, Danes and Whitehouse. We built the coalition just as Representatives Cicilline and Buck have done in the House. Because for too long, big companies, big tech companies have said ‘just trust us’ while putting profits ahead of their users. We're coming together to say the era of ‘just trust us’ has ended.
You think about how much the economy has changed since the dawn of the internet yet until we pass these bills through committees, there is not one piece of tech competition legislation that has ever been headed to the floor – that is about to change. Senator Schumer has promised a vote in early summer. And I'd like to note that the Sherman Act, which is the Magna Carta of competition law, was signed into law on July 2, for the very reason that they were associating it with the Fourth of July and this idea that in America, we have independent businesses. And I think that's a pretty good day to have the Senate vote by.
These tech companies, the largest the world has ever known, are monopolies. They have gotten the attention, of course, during both the Trump administration and the Biden administration of the top regulators, so there's major investigations going on as we speak. But in the meantime, while those investigations and cases proceed through the courts, we have a monopoly situation and we can't just sit there and say, well, let's just see what happens in 10 years, because we've already seen what happens now. And so at its core, this is about lowering costs for consumers and helping competitive business. It's pro-capitalist and it's pro-economy. We have momentum. And despite all the money being spent against us, we have momentum because the bill is pro-competition and it's common sense.
What does it do? Well, first, these dominant digital platforms will no longer be able to put their own products and services first compared to those of competitors, regardless of how good they are. They actually have to be fair in how they present the options on their platforms. Amazon should rank products based on price and quality, not because of who owns them. The same for Google search results. We know that Google has ninety percent of market share right now, the same for Apple's App Store. Second, the world's largest and most powerful platforms shouldn't be allowed to copy small businesses’ private data, and then create their own knockoff products. Best example of that, based on reporting from the Wall Street Journal, was a luggage organizer, four employee company in Brooklyn that put forward their private plan and then the next thing you know, a knockoff product is on Amazon Basics. Finally, the platform shouldn't require companies, especially small companies, to buy a bunch of stuff from the monopolies like ads in order to be listed at the top of the search result.
As I noted, these are some of the most powerful companies in the world with an army of thousands and thousands of lawyers and lobbyists. I think you could put our lawyers that work on this issue right about between these two signs. We know that but yet, we have right on our side. But we know we're up against a lot. In just one recent week, one inter-industry group spent $22 million on TV ads against this bill. That's $22 million against one bill in just one week.
But here's the good news. We're making progress. We have that incredible 18 month investigation with a 450 page thorough report from the House of Representatives and that included the outlines of all the recommendations for digital markets to promote competition. Then Representative Cicilline and Buck led legislation in the House and introduced their bill in June of last year, almost a year ago, later voted out of the House Judiciary Committee along with some other bills. In the Senate, Senator Grassley and I worked together to introduce the competition bill in the Senate on October 18th of last year. After a lengthy markup on January 20th, it passed out of the Senate committee 16 to 6. And as I noted, Leader Schumer has committed strongly to a vote in the early summer. Here's the truth. Our reforms are popular: a poll found 75 percent support this measure. Even a Google leaked poll put us at 68 percent. That's pretty good. That's their own pollsters. The Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, offered a full throated endorsement of our bill, as did Secretary Raimondo. Small and medium sized businesses are behind this bill and were even willing to speak out when Amazon directly told them that they should advocate against the bill. Our bill is pro-business, as I noted, pro-capitalism, pro-consumer. That's how we have this strong bipartisan group of supporters who are not wavering and that's how we've won over many, many supporters. That is why this will be the first tech competition bill to get through Congress and be signed into law by President Biden. And now I want you to hear from my friends and colleagues. And we'll start with Senator Grassley.