Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during the hearing of Attorney General Merrick Garland before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC, February 22, 2021.
Demetrius Freeman | Swimming pool | Reuters
Republican Senators Mike Lee and Chuck Grassley tabled a bill that would move all antitrust enforcement to the Department of Justice, removing the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission from antitrust, Lee’s office said Monday.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the FTC currently split the work of antitrust enforcement, with the FCC handling telecommunications business.
There is no accompanying legislation in the democratically run US House of Representatives. The Democrats control the evenly divided Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie.
The measure, introduced by Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lee, the top Republican on the committee’s antitrust committee, would also prohibit any merger that results in a market share greater than 66 percent, unless necessary to “serious” damage “to the US economy, it says in a summary.
Lee said the bill – which includes a long list of elements – would address concerns beyond big tech, which were at the center of other laws.
“We need a holistic approach that takes all these concerns into account and from which all consumers in every industry benefit – without massively increasing regulation and bringing the economy under control,” he said in a statement.
The bill would increase the Justice Department’s antitrust division budget to $ 600 million. That’s significantly higher than the Biden government’s proposal for the next fiscal year, which would raise the FTC $ 389.8 million and the Antitrust Department $ 201 million.
The move would also increase government fees to assess whether the largest mergers are antitrust legal.
It would also prohibit the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that have violated antitrust law in the past five years.