Exclusive — Senator Josh Hawley Opposes Media Cartel Plan

US Senator Josh Hawley
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) will oppose the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), his spokesman told Breitbart News on Tuesday night.

Hawley’s formal opposition to the JCPA represents one of the final remaining Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who was not formally on record in favor of the proposal or against it. Hawley’s spokesman, Phil Letsou, confirmed to Breitbart News that the Senator is opposed to the bill on Tuesday evening. Hawley has also apparently been skeptical of the plan for a long time, and opposes antitrust exemptions like the one the JCPA would create for media outlets.

Hawley joins several others, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and more from the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposing the legislation. He also joins other top Republicans like House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy in his opposition to the plan.

Some establishment Republicans like Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—as well as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)—have signed on to the legislation. Kennedy, the lead GOP sponsor of the bill alongside lead Democrat sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the U.S. Senate, has however expressed concerns with the deep structural flaws in the proposal as Breitbart News reported earlier on Tuesday. Kennedy’s office challenges the characterization that he expressed concerns with the bill, but admitted that he pushed for several changes to the original plan—an admission by his office that the senator himself knows that the plan he proffered was flawed and unworthy of conservative support from the outset.

Several Republicans and conservatives believe that the changes made to the bill make the plan even worse and do nothing to help conservatives. In fact, one that Kennedy’s office highlighted in conversations with Breitbart News earlier on Tuesday would create a private right of action for outlets not included in media cartels that the antitrust exemption would create so they could sue in court for being excluded. While Kennedy’s office—who insists the senator still supports the proposal but claims he admits it was flawed from the outset—points to that as some kind of conservative victory, in reality, the addition of the private right of action is an admission by the bill’s lead GOP sponsor in the U.S. Senate that this proposal will in fact discriminate against conservatives and others with viewpoints that veer off the mainstream of what the establishment media believes.

The JCPA in theory would allow various media organizations an antitrust exemption to be able to collectively bargain payment plans from big tech companies that carry their content on their platforms. The thinking from proponents is that it would allow media outlets to band together to challenge the power of big tech, but critics worry that it would only embolden two of arguably the worst industries in the United States: the media and tech giants. Proponents of the plan have scrambled under intense criticism to keep reviving the effort over and over, and despite dying many deaths over the past calendar year and since the proposal’s introduction last spring, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is formally considering the legislation at a markup on Thursday of this week.

The proposal’s consideration in the wake of an astonishing speech from Democrat President Joe Biden, who lambasted supporters of former President Donald Trump as threats to democracy, last week is only sure to heighten critics’ concerns. It also comes after the Biden administration had to disband its “Disinformation Governance Board” at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this year. This JCPA bill offers few answers to questions on matters including who decides who is a news organization, who gets to be part of these deals, who gets excluded, and whether the best negotiated deals would apply to everyone—or not.

The big question procedurally that remains is whether this bill will pass the full U.S. Senate after the Judiciary Committee considers it later this week. The highly controversial proposal still only has a handful of GOP cosponsors, not enough with unified Democrat support get past a 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Chamber. But, it is unclear with some rising progressive opposition if even all Democrats would be united behind it. What’s more, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer supports the plan, even its proponents wonder how much he does—and if he does become its full-on champion, how effectively Schumer will manage it. Some are concerned that less controversial antitrust proposals could be sacrificed if proponents of this plan go all-in for it, and they worry that Schumer could end up with nothing at the end of the process if he plays this one wrong.

Then, even if the bill passes the U.S. Senate, it still has not moved in the U.S. House. House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who has fueled conservative and GOP opposition to the plan with his claims that its passage would help fight “disinformation,” has not yet moved on a markup of the plan. Then, even if it were to be considered there, the full House would have to pass it too. With much else to do in September for Congress as a whole, then campaign season hitting full swing in October ahead of the November midterm elections, and then the holidays interspersed with a lame duck session of Congress in November and December, the calendar days where it is possible for the prospect of a bill making it through both chambers of Congress to the president’s desk this Congress are getting slimmer.

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