Republican Senators Mike Lee and Chuck Grassley introduced a bill that would move all antitrust enforcement to the Justice Department, stripping the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of antitrust authority, Lee’s office announced on Monday, June 14.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the FTC currently divide up the work of antitrust enforcement, with the FCC weighing in on telecommunications deals.
There is no companion legislation in the Democratic-led US House of Representatives. Democrats control the evenly divided Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
The measure, introduced by Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lee, the top Republican on the Committee’s antitrust panel, would also ban any merger that results in a market share of more than 66% unless needed to prevent “serious harm” to the US economy, according to a summary.
Lee said that the bill – which has a long list of elements – would address concerns beyond Big Tech, which has been the focus of other legislation.
“We need a holistic approach that deals with all of these concerns, and that benefits all consumers, in every industry – without massively increasing regulation and imposing a command-and-control grip over the economy,” he said in a statement.
The bill would increase the budget of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division to US$600 million. That is sharply higher than the Biden administration proposal for the next fiscal year that would give the FTC US$389.8 million and the Antitrust Division US$201 million.
The measure would also raise fees charged by the government to assess whether the largest mergers are legal under antitrust law.
It would also prohibit the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that violated antitrust laws in the previous five years.
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