Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell tried to move through the U.S. Senate a highly controversial plan called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) using a procedure called a “hotline,” Breitbart News has learned.
Before the close of business on Thursday, at least two GOP senators–including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)–objected to the effort and put a hold on the push. To stop a bill from being passed unanimously through the Senate via the “hotline” track, only one senator needs to object. Sources told Breitbart News that more Republican senators are racing to express opposition to the proposal, and they expect more holds to be placed in the coming hours and days ahead.
Jamming through such a controversial piece of legislation with this procedure in a lame duck session of Congress before the new Congress the American people elected in November’s midterm elections takes office on Jan. 3, 2023, would be a massive escalation in an already chaotic process for the JCPA the past two years.
The JCPA would carve out for establishment media outlets an antitrust exemption allowing them to form cartels to collectively bargain with Big Tech companies. Proponents of the plan argue it would even the scales and force the hand of Big Tech by making the tech giants pay media outlets for their content, but critics worry it could make many of the problems facing both industries much worse because of serious structural flaws in the bill.
Earlier this year, when the Senate Judiciary Committee moved to advance the bill, three different committee hearings were upended when an amendment offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) undercut the coalition of GOP and Democrat senators who came together to draft the initial plan. However, Cruz eventually relented and betrayed conservatives by giving the proponents of the JCPA what they wanted and allowing the bill to advance.
The lead sponsors on the bill are Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on the Democrat side and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on the GOP side. Kennedy’s support for this, and for moving on it during a lame duck session, which makes it even more controversial, could seriously hurt any chances he has at the governor’s mansion in Louisiana in the 2023, as Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has issued a clarion call to Americans to voice opposition to this legislation to their lawmakers. Landry is already running for governor and Kennedy may announce a campaign in the coming weeks or months ahead. If Kennedy runs, he would face Landry and whoever else runs in a jungle primary in November of next year.
Industry lobbyists pushing the JCPA ramped up their efforts last week and this week as this Congress enters its final month, and their hopes of getting this sweeping change to federal policy with regard to media and tech through Congress this year dwindle. The last ditch desperation push from industry insiders is putting heat on members of Congress, trying to get them to back the plan–or at least soften opposition–so they can get their handout through this year.
The pathways proponents might be able to get this structurally flawed legislation through Congress are limited in the final weeks before the new Congress takes over. They include trying to attach it to must-pass legislation like an omnibus spending bill or the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)–both of these paths seem less likely though still possible now that several GOP senators have formally expressed opposition to the plan during the hotline process–but also the senate could try to take up and pass the bill on its own as well.
Passing it via a standalone process would be complicated as well as a nasty and convoluted battle, and it would cost the Senate serious time in the final weeks of this year. The decision on whether to embark on such a monumental undertaking rests with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is balancing interests of several other Democrats in the remaining weeks that Democrats have a House majority.
House Democrats are expected to begin consideration of the proposal in the House Judiciary Committee next Wednesday, with outgoing chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) taking up the plan for a mark up in committee next week.