On Monday, January 26, 2015, Senator Mike Lee (Republican-Utah) announced that he will chair the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, and that former chair Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) will serve as ranking member.
Lee joined the subcommittee in 2011 and previously served as ranking member. According to Lee, it is his goal “to protect the free market as [a] place where competition can thrive, ideas can flourish, regulatory costs are limited, and consumers are the final arbiters of who wins and loses.”
The subcommittee, with Lee’s leadership, will continue its oversight of antitrust law and policy, as well as oversight of antitrust enforcement and competition policy at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. In the past, the subcommittee has reviewed both antitrust conduct cases and mergers, including Google’s placement of search results and the Comcast – Time Warner Cable proposed merger. With respect to the Comcast – Time Warner merger, Lee and Klobuchar sent a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in November asking that the agencies give the Comcast – Time Warner merger appropriate scrutiny. Specifically, Lee and Klobuchar asked the agencies to assess the merger’s potential “effect on the ability of independent programmers to enter and thrive in the video content market.” Lee and Klobuchar, however, took no position on whether the agencies should approve the merger.
Last term, Klobuchar sponsored a railroad enforcement bill (the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2013) and a pay-for-delay generic drug bill (Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act). Neither bill passed the Senate, and all bills from last term now have expired.
Lee, in his role as ranking member, has questioned the DOJ and FTC on antitrust enforcement issues. For example, during the April 2013 Senate antitrust oversight hearing, Lee, as ranking member, asked witnesses William Baer, then DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, and Edith Ramirez, FTC Chairwoman, about the agencies’ different preliminary injunction standards and the practical impact of the different standards. During the hearing, Lee also questioned Baer and Ramirez about the agencies’ plans to issue antitrust guidance on DOJ Section 2 enforcement and the bounds of FTC authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Specifically, Lee commented on the DOJ’s decision in 2008 to withdraw its Sherman Act Section 2 report, and Lee noted that several current and past commissioners asserted the FTC lacked “regulatory humility” with respect to the bounds of the FTC’s authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act.