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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

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

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Electric car prices could go up before they come down

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The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.