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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats and Republicans might have found an area of sincere, bipartisan unity: making it harder for Big Tech companies to complete mergers and acquisitions.

Why it matters: This is a mixed bag for tech startups. On the one hand, it could slow the growth of mega-platforms, thus giving startups more breathing room. On the other hand, it could limit liquidity options.

Driving the news: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Thursday unveiled legislation to forbid mergers that "create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition," Axios' Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill report.

  • This would apply to all large companies, including Big Tech.
  • Current law only bars mergers that demonstrably reduce competition. In other words, Klobuchar's bill is aimed at the circumstances facing regulators when Facebook bought Instagram.
  • The bill would also bar dominant firms from conduct that puts competitors at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Klobuchar is being joined by Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey and tells Axios that she's coordinating with her antitrust counterparts in the House and reaching out to Republicans for support.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday proposed a "preemptive prohibition" on acquisitions by Big Tech companies.

  • Hawley's effort is structured as an amendment to Congress' proposed budget resolution, and would effectively ask Congress to determine which companies apply (although, in a press release, Hawley specifically cited both Amazon and Google).
  • Hawley is senatora non grata right now, but his language hews fairly close to a recommendation made last fall by Democrats on the House antitrust subcommittee.
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) was just named that subcommittee's ranking member, and said that going after anticompetitive behavior by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple was a top priority.

What's next: Klobuchar plans multiple hearings related to the antitrust package, focusing on different sectors of the economy, saying that she intends to make these preludes to legislative action and not ends in themselves.

  • "Having a few hearings where you're, like, sitting at a movie throwing popcorn at a screen — at the CEOs — isn't gonna be enough," she said. "We have to get something done."

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Feb 3, 2021 - Technology

Josh Hawley proposes "preemptive" ban on Big Tech mergers

Photo: Greg Nash, Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday proposed legislation that would create a "preemptive prohibition" on acquisitions by Big Tech companies, including Amazon and Google.

Why it matters: Hawley's idea mirrors a recommendation made last fall by Democrats on the House antitrust subcommittee, suggesting there could be bipartisan support. But it's unclear if Senate leadership will take it up, particularly given that Hawley structured it as an amendment to Congress' proposed budget resolution.

Big Tech's banner 2020

Data: FactSet, company filings; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Four of the country's biggest technology companies — Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon — had the most profitable year on record.

Why it matters: Turns out the only thing better for Big Tech than the normal economy is the pandemic economy.

Dave Lawler, author of World
5 mins ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."