Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee threatened to fracture a bipartisan investigation into Big Tech.
In a letter Monday, Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., the ranking member on the Antitrust Subcommittee, told Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., they "will not participate in an investigation with pre-conceived conclusions that America's large tech companies are inherently bad, cannot be allowed to exist in society, and must be broken up."
The letter followed comments Nadler made at a fundraising event Sunday. In a video from the event posted by Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute and advocate for stronger antitrust enforcement, Nadler can be heard talking about "changing the distribution of power" and "breaking up all the large companies."
Politico reported that Nadler did not call specifically to break up the tech companies, but instead was speaking broadly about changes necessary to tackle the issue of concentrated market power.
Nadler retweeted the video on his Twitter account, saying, "Concentrated economic power is a threat to both our democracy and our free and open markets," adding that it's important Congress "act where appropriate to address this concern."
Nadler's statements raised alarms for Collins and Sensenbrenner, who said in the letter they "have warned from the start of the Subcommittee's work that this investigation must avoid pre-conceived conclusions. The conclusions you articulated this past weekend have only aggravated our concerns."
"America's leaders should not punish tech companies simply because those companies have succeeded — that will hurt consumers and stifle innovation. Our online ecosystem is thriving and breaking up large tech companies simply because of their size isn't the answer," they wrote.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, who is leading the investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, has said he hopes the effort will remain bipartisan as it enters the legislative phase. Unlike the investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department, the House panel's probe will result in legislative proposals to reform the digital marketplace broadly, rather than impose an enforcement action.
In an interview with CNBC last month, Cicilline said he wants the process to continue to be "collaborative," acknowledging it's easier to agree that a problem exists than to figure out how to address it.
A spokesperson for Nadler did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Cicilline declined to comment.
Collins will soon be replaced as ranking member of the full committee by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as Collins pursues a Georgia senate bid that requires him to step down from the position under GOP conference rules, according to Politico. Jordan has been active in pursuing bipartisan legislation on facial recognition as the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. But he will have to get up to speed quickly when he takes over on the Judiciary Committee on March 12 to meet Cicilline's goal of releasing the report of the panel's findings by early April.