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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Corporate giants would be barred from acquisitions and century-old antitrust laws would get sharper teeth under a new proposal by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) shared exclusively with Axios.

The big picture: Hawley is among the Senate's most conservative members, but his attack on corporate power wouldn't sound out of place on Elizabeth Warren's or Bernie Sanders' agenda.

  • That's how deeply Republicans' anger at what they see as out-of-control "censorship" by Big Tech and overreaching activism by "woke corporations" has alienated some of the party from its traditional big-business base.

Details: Hawley's "Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act" would ...

  • Ban mergers and acquisitions by firms with a market cap over $100 billion
  • Lower the threshold for prosecution under existing federal antitrust laws, replacing the prevalent "consumer harm" standard with one that emphasizes "the protection of competition"
  • Require companies that lose federal antitrust lawsuits to "forfeit all their profits resulting from monopolistic conduct"
  • Give the Federal Trade Commission new power to designate and regulate "dominant digital firms" in different online markets

What they're saying: "This country and this government shouldn't be run by a few mega-corporations," Hawley told Axios. The Republican Party "has got to become the party of trust-busting once again. You know, that's a part of our history."

  • Hawley said "globalization" and "both parties getting comfortable with corporate consolidation" were responsible for a market failure that justifies strong intervention.
  • "We tried it the way that the big corporatists wanted," he said, "and it hasn't been a success for the American consumer, for the American producer, or for the American economy."

Of note: Hawley's plan is more than a salvo against Silicon Valley. Its rules on mergers, for instance, would cover dozens of U.S. giants in virtually every economic sector, from banking and health to retail and media.

Between the lines: Aren't people going to be confused by this tough-on-business proposal from a member of the party of business? Hawley offers two responses:

  • "Trust-busting" was a Republican concept originally, under Progressive-Era GOP president Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Strong antitrust laws are ultimately about the sanctity of competition, and Republicans ought to embrace that.

What to watch: Hawley's ideas might win some support from other populist Republicans, but the broader party would need a sea-change in thinking to embrace it. Democrats, meanwhile, are likely to prefer their own bills.

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Go deeper

4 hours ago - World

Canada First Nation finds mass grave at another school site

A memorial around the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on June 4, honoring 215 Indigenous children found buried in an unmarked, mass grave at a one-time residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Photo: David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A First Nation in Canada said Wednesday "hundreds" of unmarked graves have been discovered at the site of a former residential school in the prairie province of Saskatchewan.

Of note: The Cowessess First Nation said in a statement the number of graves found are "the most significantly substantial to date in Canada" — suggesting it's more than the remains of 215 Indigenous children discovered last month at a former residential school site in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Biden replaces FHFA director after Supreme Court ruling

Mark Calabria, then-director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in 2020. Photo: Astrid Riecken/ Pool/Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday replaced the regulator who oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, hours after a Supreme Court ruling enabled President Biden to oust the Trump appointee.

Why it matters: The removal of libertarian economist Mark Calabria as Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director gives Biden more control over the fate of Freddie and Fannie, "which play an outsize role in the housing market and are central to many homeowners' ability to afford homes," per the New York Times.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days