Jun 17, 2022 - Technology

Slew of tech proposals face Congress logjam

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A glut of major tech policy bills await action as Congress' summer recess looms — and anything that doesn't pass by then is unlikely to pass at all in a midterm election season.

What's happening: The ambitious tech agenda this Congress started out with 18 months ago is getting squeezed out by other legislative priorities, including gun control, the Jan. 6 investigation, and the economy.

Here are the key tech bills in Congress' queue:

The United States Innovation and Competition Act: This measure to strengthen the U.S. chip industry was thought of originally as an easy win for both parties to boost American tech competitiveness, particularly with China, has been bogged down in negotiations.

  • Congressional leadership has told lawmakers negotiating the final text of USICA their time is almost up.
  • Per Punchbowl News, a version that may ultimately pass will be slimmed down significantly and mostly focus on chip manufacturing and research.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act: The most-likely-to-pass of this Congress' spate of tech antitrust bills would significantly change how giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta do business by not allowing them to preference their own products.

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act: Congress has been trying to pass a comprehensive personal data privacy bill for years now, with many stops and starts.

Filling the Federal Communications Commission's empty seat: Democratic FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel's agenda is stymied without the confirmation of Gigi Sohn as a Democratic commissioner, as Axios previously reported.

  • That's stalling the Biden administration's effort to tackle digital equity and expand broadband access.

Curbing data brokers: After the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a number of lawmakers said legislation would be needed to protect online data around reproductive care and abortion access.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others introduced a sweeping bill that would ban data brokers from selling location and health data this week, following another attempt to regulate data brokers for military personnel. But time looks too short for these efforts to advance.

The intrigue: Lawmakers are busy. Congress is scrambling to pass bipartisan efforts on a number of high-profile policy issues, including gun safety in the wake of the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings and safety provisions for Supreme Court justices.

Yes, but: Congress isn't the only player in the tech-regulation game.

What to watch: Bipartisan support was supposed to help move some of these proposals forward, and could keep some of the ideas alive even after midterms. But if Republicans take the gavel in January in the House, the Senate or both, they'll bring very different priorities to these issues.

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