Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during House impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on 9 December 2019 in Washington, DC.
Doug Mills | Pool | Getty Images
A California lawmaker who has resisted efforts to crack down on the tech industry is the front-runner to become the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust.
Rep. Lou Correa, who represents part of Southern California, is being discussed as the likely successor to former ranking member David Cicilline, DR.I., according to four sources who spoke amid private discussions. Cicillin previously announced that he would leave Congress as of June 1.
If Correa ascends to the role, it would represent a sharp reversal in attitude at the top of the subcommittee, which just a few years earlier led a sweeping investigation into Amazon, An apple, Google and Facebook who found that each maintained monopoly power. At Cicilline, the CEOs of each company faced hours of grilling in front of the panel. The Judiciary Committee also succeeded in passing a package of antitrust bills that aim to rein in the power of top industry players by preventing them from favoring their own products in their markets or by prohibiting ownership of two businesses that present a conflict of interest.
Things could still change, but Correa is well positioned based on his track record. Correa’s team has spoken with Judiciary officials about the subcommittee’s possible priorities, according to a House official, and a vote could take place in the next few weeks.
A spokesman for Correa declined to comment.
A senior Democratic aide described the prospect of Correa becoming a senior member as “a big win for tech companies.” If he ascends to the Democratic Party’s top role, he will sit next to Speaker Thomas Massey, R-Ky., who was elected over previous caucus member Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. Buck is the top Republican defender of technology antitrust bills.
While Cicilline and Buck championed bills that sought to eliminate what they saw as unfair practices by Big Tech and supported increased funding for antitrust agencies, Correa opposed tech antitrust bills and voted against legislation that would raised money for the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.
Democrats are the minority in the House, so whoever takes the position won’t be able to set the subcommittee’s agenda. But several sources who spoke to CNBC said Correa’s background suggests tech antitrust will take a back seat for a while at the subcommittee if he gets the nod. Already, the kinds of bills that came out of the Judiciary Committee in the summer of 2021 are now being stopped with the help of tech lobbying.
Correa won the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce in his 2022 campaign. The chamber notably opposed the FTC’s progressive actions and warned that US legislative reforms could undermine the country’s economic security. Since 2018, Correa has received about $17,000 in donations from political action committees of tech companies, including those of Amazon, Google and Meta.
Correa is unlikely to be a popular choice among progressive groups. Groups such as the Demand Progress Education Fund, Economic Security Project Action and Fight for the Future called on the committee in April to select a replacement for Cicilline “with a similarly unwavering commitment to antitrust policies,” who voted for all bills in the House Judiciary and Antitrust Package.
Several senior members of the subcommittee, who support technology antitrust reform, would have seemed like more likely candidates for the top Democratic job until recently. But the field is complicated by the fact that many of them already have high-ranking membership positions on other subcommittees that they may be reluctant to relinquish. That includes former antitrust subcommittee Vice Chairman Joe Negus, D-Colo., as well as Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
Still, the senior Democratic aide said the focus on tech antitrust issues won’t go away entirely, even if they become less of a focus in the House. The aide pointed to ongoing efforts at the White House and law enforcement agencies to address digital competition issues.
“Those issues are still there,” the aide said. “They won’t leave.”
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