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Two Republican U.S. senators introduce antitrust bill

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Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - Republican Senators Mike Lee and Chuck Grassley introduced a bill on Tuesday that would move all antitrust enforcement to the Justice Department, stripping the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission of antitrust authority, Lee’s office said on Monday.

The Justice Department's Antitrust Division and the FTC currently divide up the work of antitrust enforcement, with the FCC weighing in on telecommunications deals.

There is no companion legislation in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats control the evenly divided Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.

The measure, introduced by Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lee, the top Republican on the committee's antitrust panel, would also ban any merger that results in a market share of more than 66 percent unless needed to prevent "serious harm" to the U.S. economy, according to a summary.

Lee said that the bill - which has a long list of elements - would address concerns beyond Big Tech, which has been the focus of other legislation. {nL2N2NT1VQ] read more

"We need a holistic approach that deals with all of these concerns, and that benefits all consumers, in every industry – without massively increasing regulation and imposing a command-and-control grip over the economy," he said in a statement.

The bill would increase the budget of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division to $600 million. That is sharply higher than the Biden administration proposal for the next fiscal year that would give the FTC $389.8 million and the Antitrust Division $201 million. read more

The measure would also raise fees charged by the government to assess whether the largest mergers are legal under antitrust law.

It would also prohibit the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that violated antitrust laws in the previous five years.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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