House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday slammed a bill from Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) that would empower establishment media organizations and help them destroy competition under the guise of appearing tough on Silicon Valley tech giants.
The bill, called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), would create a special legal exemption for media companies to allow them to band together in a way that would otherwise be illegal under antitrust law to collectively bargain with big tech companies. Ostensibly, per backers of the legislation, this exemption would empower media companies against big tech companies, but deep concerns that Breitbart News has documented have been exposed with the system it would create that essentially allows the creation of establishment media cartels that would hurt new media companies.
In an exclusive statement to Breitbart News, McCarthy urged Republicans to oppose the legislation because it would serve as a handout to establishment media companies from Democrats in Congress and squeeze out new media and upstart companies.
“Attempts by big media and Democrats in Congress to collude and monopolize economic models poses a tremendous threat to free speech and a free press,” McCarthy told Breitbart News. “Never before has the opportunity been as open for startup news outlets as it is today. Americans now have more choices to get information and make decisions for their communities and elected leaders. That makes Democracy stronger and creates a whole new class of entrepreneurs that will also drive job growth. As we have seen in other industries, disrupters make legacy players uneasy and those legacy players are often willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto their market share and power. This is the antithesis of conservatism and House conservatives will fight for an open and free market — especially one that advances free speech and a free press.”
McCarthy’s statement comes as he is riding high off a win in Iowa for House Republicans this week. On Wednesday, the House Minority Leader traveled to the Hawkeye State to highlight House Democrat efforts to overturn the certified election win of Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and use the House Administration Committee—at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—to overturn the state’s certified election results. Moments after McCarthy publicly appeared alongside Miller-Meeks and Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) to expose the plot from Democrat Rita Hart and her companions Pelosi and House Administration Committee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Hart withdrew her request to have the certified election overturned and formally finally conceded the election—months later—to Miller-Meeks.
McCarthy takes that momentum now back to Washington to fight core elements of the Democrat agenda, on everything from the border crisis to President Joe Biden’s “infrastructure” plan to the Democrats’ efforts to use government to empower establishment media. That’s why this strong opposition from McCarthy to Cicilline’s legislation puts a serious damper on big media companies’ lobbying efforts to get Republicans on board with the bill. Cicilline, who served as one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment managers against now former President Donald Trump in Trump’s second impeachment trial, had won the support of a handful of GOP members on his legislation, including notably from Reps. Ken Buck (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Greg Steube (R-FL), Burgess Owens (R-UT), and Victoria Spartz (R-IN). Buck is the lead GOP sponsor of the legislation in the House.
Lobbyists for a consortium known as the News Media Alliance have been frantically calling around to conservative lawmakers trying to pressure them into supporting the legislation. The way they frame it as somehow a check on big tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter—companies that Republicans have serious and legitimate concerns about. These big media lobbyists may have had some initial success in wooing a handful of Republicans on board, as those five House Republicans are joined by the lead GOP Senate sponsor, Sen. John Kennedy (R-AL), who introduced a Senate companion version of the bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Cicilline, according to Axios, had been framing it as a way to narrowly channel opposition to big tech to win bipartisan support and make it through Congress. But that initial momentum for this bill is now hitting a brick wall of opposition, and McCarthy’s firm disapproval of the legislation is a signal to the rest of the House GOP conference that supporting this is an abandonment of conservative principles.
McCarthy’s opposition to the legislation comes after House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) expressed opposition during a Judiciary Committee subcommittee on antitrust hearing on the bill a few weeks ago. Jordan expressed concerns during that hearing about giving so much power to establishment media, supposedly in an a response to big tech’s amassed power. He said he is concerned the amalgamation of two groups of powerful entities—big media and big tech—could prove disastrous. Jordan said:
We’ve already seen them team up against we the people and now we have legislation that’s going to give Big Media this consortium and cartel power. The same time we’re looking to use antitrust law to deal with Big Tech, we’re going to give an antitrust exemption to Big Media. Maybe that’s the right course, but I got real questions about that.
During that same hearing, Gaetz expressed concerns about the bill he previously co-sponsored upon learning more about the issues behind it. The Florida firebrand—who now just weeks later faces allegations of impropriety from some of the same big media companies this bill would empower—even commented that he may withdraw his cosponsorship because of those concerns, something he has not yet done.
Meanwhile, more and more conservative movement opposition to this legislation is building. Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC) and a conservative movement fixture who previously served as Ohio’s State Treasurer and Secretary of State, wrote a definitive piece excoriating the bill as a “bait and switch to strangle conservative outlets” for American Thinker a week or so ago:
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JPCA) is a bait-and-switch attempt that claims to help conservative news sources but would instead purge them from the marketplace of ideas. Congress should reject it for the freedom-killer it is. JCPA would give media companies — broadcast and print — an exemption from federal antitrust laws, so they can operate in a coordinated fashion to negotiate prices that social media companies like Facebook would have to pay them to carry their content. It would ensure that these tech billionaires would have to direct some of their riches into content providers.
The alignment of McCarthy and Jordan against the bill, though, seems to severely dampen any prospects of it passing easily out of the House. Sure, Democrats can still ram it through on party lines—or even with a handful of the GOP members who cosponsored it supporting it—but the key to getting through a Senate filibuster that requires a 60-vote threshold be met is that Democrats would need strong GOP support in the House for this legislation. Now, that appears unlikely as the two major power centers of the House GOP conference—McCarthy and Jordan—have aligned against the bill, expressing firm opposition to it.
So, while Kennedy is on board in the Senate, at least for now, it appears as though, if the Democrats pursue this legislation from a big-picture perspective, they may only get a handful of House Republicans to vote for it. That does not bode well for Democrat chances of passage of the bill in the Senate in terms of convincing at least 10 Senate Republicans to support it, meaning that Democrats may be inclined to spend their time in both chambers—the House and Senate—on things that have a better chance of making it through easily than something that is becoming as clearly contentious as this legislation is.