January 21, 2021

NEW PRESIDENT, NEW SENATE, NEW ANTITRUST BALLGAME:

U.S. antitrust enforcement may be due for a shot in the arm as Joe Biden takes office, backed by Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and led by lawmakers who have vowed to increase funding for competition enforcement and push other reforms.

Even before Democrats retook the Senate with victories in Georgia’s runoff elections on Jan. 5, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota had been confident Congress would get more aggressive on antitrust enforcement.

Regardless of whether she would continue as ranking Democrat on the Senate antitrust subcommittee in a GOP-controlled chamber or ascend to the chair if her party took over, Klobuchar said in November she would push for reforms she has introduced over the years, including bills making it easier to contest mergers.

“This was never a partisan issue,” Klobuchar said at the time, arguing antitrust concerns, especially about increasing market concentration, are not limited to the major technology companies that are currently facing scrutiny.

The head of the House antitrust subcommittee, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said in separate remarks around the same time that he would be working on competition legislation in the coming weeks.

Of the various reforms currently circulating, Cicilline said those with the most bipartisan support include calls for more funding for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as prohibitions against platforms favoring their own products and excluding competitors.

The Trump Administration was more friendly to antitrust than traditional Republican administrations, so this isn’t as big a shift as it might be.

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