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David Cicilline Led The Fight Against Big Tech. Here’s What Comes Next.

 |  March 19, 2023

By Rebecca Klar, The Hill

The House is losing its top antitrust reform champion later this year when Rep. David Cicilline resigns.

The congressman announced last month that he will retire from Congress in June to take a role as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, a community foundation and largest funder of nonprofit organizations in the state, ending his seven-term run in the House.

By reaching across the aisle, Cicilline led the House Judiciary Committee, as chair of the antitrust subcommittee, in advancing a series of bipartisan proposals to revamp antitrust laws in a way that targeted the nation’s largest tech companies.

Cicilline and his coalition of antitrust reform supporters said the rules on the books fail to address the modern day industry giants, namely Meta, Amazon, Google and Apple.

The proposals sought to address concerns critics said the tech platforms raised, such as boosting their own products and services over rival offerings, and to redefine what firms qualify as dominant companies based on market cap and user base numbers.

But his efforts were often met with opposition.

The companies have pushed back strongly on that assertion, with tech groups arguing that the proposals would force them to unwind services and features users enjoyed.

Cicilline and the bills’ supporters said the bills would not have the effect, but failed to pass any of them. Despite the rare bipartisan support, most of the proposals failed to make it to President Biden’s desk in the last Congress. 

Lobbying during a House transition

The combination of hefty lobbying from tech giants and a flip in House control to GOP leaders means the antitrust proposals are seemingly at a standstill.

While a handful of Congressional Republicans support taking antitrust action against big tech companies, GOP lawmakers as whole have focused their tech agenda on content moderation and censorship.

In an interview with The Hill, Cicilline said he is still hopeful there is still a path forward for the agenda he laid the groundwork for in the House. 

“There’s still really strong bipartisan support for that whole package. We had the votes in the last Congress. My sense is we have the votes in this Congress, too. I think what will make it a little more challenging for the next couple of years is the Republican House leadership’s opposition to these bills,” Cicilline told The Hill. 

In another blow to the antitrust reform push, House GOP leaders replaced Cicilline’s Republican counterpart in the fight, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), in the top spot on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.

When they took control this year, Republicans placed Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), a staunch libertarian, as subcommittee chair in yet another sign that they won’t take up the bills.

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