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The glaring problems with House Republicans' new Big Tech agenda

The House GOP's new Big Tech agenda is a great example of Democrats and Republicans talking past one another.
Image: House Judiciary Committee Holds Second Hearing In Trump Impeachment Inquiry
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during the House impeachment inquiry hearings on Capitol Hill on Dec. 9, 2019Doug Mills / Pool via Getty Images

There aren't many important issues on which Democratic and Republican lawmakers can agree, especially in the divided U.S. House, but there seems to be some common ground when it comes to strengthening regulations of the tech industry.

For Democrats, exploring new antitrust legislation offers the promise of better consumer protections, improved competition, greater innovation, and ultimately a stronger industry. For Republicans, Big Tech must be punished because it's secretly conspiring to silence conservatives as part of a nefarious ideological scheme that only conservatives can see.

Or put another way, the parties are approaching the issue from profoundly different directions, but they've both expressed an interest in tackling new legislation that could, in theory, garner bipartisan backing, their competing motivations notwithstanding.

It was against this backdrop that a group of GOP lawmakers did something a little different yesterday: as CNBC reported, they unveiled a policy blueprint of sorts.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, laid out their framework for regulating Big Tech companies on Wednesday. The document is meant as a road map for new legislation aimed at Big Tech power, according to a Republican aide.

Right off the bat, it's probably worth emphasizing that it's good to see House Republicans putting some ideas in writing. Their Big Tech policy agenda isn't overly detailed -- the entire document is under 700 words, which means it's roughly the length of a typical MaddowBlog post -- but it's nevertheless constructive to see GOP lawmakers publish some relatively specific ideas that resemble substance.

The trouble is, these ideas could be better.

First, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee weren't exactly subtle in framing their agenda as retribution against companies the GOP perceives as foes. Literally the first sentence in the document reads, "Big Tech is out to get conservatives."

In reality, Big Tech is not out to get conservatives, and the fact that these ostensible lawmakers are focused more on conspiracy theories than governing is obviously problematic.

Second, one of the key Republican proposals is streamlining a legal process that would allow the Supreme Court to hear antitrust cases faster. It's not at all clear why this would help: with the high court having moved sharply to the right, there's little to suggest the justices would be more inclined to rule against the private sector giants.

And third, as The Hill was correct to note, the GOP blueprint "calls for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be stripped of its antitrust enforcement authority."

Yes, President Biden and Senate Democrats elevated Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech, to lead the Federal Trade Commission. Republicans' plan to combat the industry is to weaken her powers.

When it comes to governing, it may seem that Democrats and Republicans are talking past one another. In reality, it's not your imagination.