With help from Emily Birnbaum and Alexandra S. Levine

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— Keeping tabs on TracFone: Senate Democrats are pushing the FCC to add conditions to the nearly $7 billion merger of Verizon and TracFone Wireless to safeguard those companies’ low-income customers.

— Who’s been heading to the Hill? Lobbying disclosures show a flurry of tech industry activity in response to House Democrats’ antitrust agenda.

— A seat at the table: Senate Commerce Republicans want to make sure they get a chance to look at the broadband provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

FRIDAY IS ON THE HORIZON! SO CLOSE. John Hendel here, filling in on my last guest hosting day. It’s been fun, although I’ll be passing the baton to Emily for tomorrow.

Keep in touch at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @JohnHendel. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

ANOTHER TELECOM MERGER LOOMS Ten months after announcing its proposed merger with TracFone, Verizon is still awaiting approval from the FCC, and newfound pressure from Senate Democrats may not help close the deal any quicker.

— Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and four of his Democratic colleagues wrote to acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel Wednesday, in part to raise concerns about what the transaction could mean for TracFone’s customers participating in the FCC Lifeline program, which subsidizes service for low-income households. “We are concerned that Verizon does not have a sufficient record on supporting Lifeline for its current wireless services and has provided few enforceable commitments to the FCC within the proposed TracFone transaction,” the senators wrote.

— The five Democrats aren’t urging Rosenworcel to reject the deal, but they are asking for her to, as part of the approval process, safeguard Lifeline customers and make sure 5G is available to them (in line with demands from some advocacy groups and the Communications Workers of America). (DOJ signed off on the deal late last year.)

— Verizon spokesperson Rich Young defended the deal as providing all TracFone customers with more choices and lower pricing. “Lifeline is foundational to the acquisition, and in response to calls for time commitments, Verizon has committed to the Lifeline program for at least three years,” he added. A Verizon executive told POLITICO back in March the carrier was ready to negotiate binding conditions and met with Rosenworcel at the end of last month.

— During Wednesday’s earnings call, Verizon officials maintained that they expect to close the deal in the second half of the year.

YOU DON’T SAY — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last year spoke out about his concerns that sweeping regulations targeting the tech sector could crush smaller companies and further consolidate Silicon Valley giants’ power. But for the most part, Twitter has remained out of the public debate around the tech antitrust bills that passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year, and it’s been happy to stay on the sidelines as lawmakers go after much larger companies — namely Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

It turns out that Twitter, too, has been lobbying on the six antitrust bills, according to the company’s most recent lobbying disclosure filings. Twitter said it’s nothing too juicy, though — the company’s lobbyists asked the committee questions about the intent of particular parts of the bills and whether Twitter is big enough to be subject to them (it isn’t).

Microsoft, perhaps less surprisingly, reported lobbying on all the bills as well. That’s certain to catch the eye of the bill’s Republican critics — particularly those who have hammered Democrats on the committee for leaving Microsoft, one of the country’s wealthiest companies, out of their investigation into the ‘Big Four.’ Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its lobbying, although Microsoft President Brad Smith has testified against his rivals before the committee.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned ‘Big Four’ reported spending similar amounts to the same time period last year, indicating that they’ve yet to dramatically dial up their spending in response to escalating government scrutiny. Facebook this quarter spent $4.77 million, Amazon spent $4.86 million, Google spent about $2 million and Apple spent $1.64 million. (Though don’t forget — this still puts the major tech companies among the top spenders in Washington.)

SENATE GOP SEEKS TO SWAY BROADBAND DEBATE — Despite being in the minority party, Senate Republicans are still trying to influence where the debate over broadband spending is going.

— On infrastructure: Senate Commerce ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and eight of his committee colleagues wrote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer requesting that the panel get the chance to mark up the broadband provisions of any infrastructure legislation through regular order. They “fear that rushed legislative efforts that bypass the committee’s deliberative process and technical analysis will ultimately repeat the failures of past broadband programs.” (Members of the Senate’s bipartisan negotiating team contend they’re “close” to a deal, despite Wednesday’s failed procedural vote).

— And Wicker and two colleagues also are upping the pressure around a revamp of how the FCC manages its $10 billion pot of broadband subsidies, funding for which is derived from fees tacked on to phone bills. Their latest legislation would call for an FCC inquiry looking at how tech companies should help pay into the subsidy fund, potentially via “digital advertising revenue and user fees.” Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who recently suggested as much, was quick to praise the bill.

NEW THIS MORNING: THE FTC’S RECUSAL QUESTION — As the FTC weighs a deadline of whether to re-file its lawsuit against Facebook, the agency will have to make what my colleague Leah writes is “an even weightier call”: whether Chair Lina Khan needs to recuse herself from the Facebook case altogether. Those familiar with the FTC’s workings, she writes, say Facebook’s effort to get her taken off the case “is a long shot.”

Speaking of: FTC commissioners will testify Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce consumer protection panel at a session examining legislative proposals to boost the agency’s resources and enforcement power. The hearing follows commissioners’ appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee in April, although this will be Khan’s first hearing as chair.

AND A NEW CHIP IN THE HILL’S BARGAINING AROUND TECH R&D — We still don’t fully know how the House will respond to the Senate’s passage of Schumer’s sprawling China competition bill, which made it out of the chamber earlier this summer. But the House Science Committee offered another clue to the bill’s eventual fate with a bipartisan plan to revitalize the National Institutes of Science and Technology.

— Instead of taking up the massive Senate measure, the House is opting for smaller pieces of legislation. The full chamber advanced other bills addressing some of the same priorities late last month.

— The latest House Science proposal addresses government research on everything from advanced communications to artificial intelligence to quantum communications. “As Congress considers a significant package of legislation to support the Federal research enterprise and bolster U.S. competitiveness, it must not overlook this essential agency,” said Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), who chairs the panel’s research subcommittee.

President Biden announces plans to nominate longtime Comcast executive David Cohen as his ambassador to Canada … Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda and General Motors general counsel Craig Glidden join TechNet’s Executive Council, with Coursera joining as a new member of the tech trade group … Rich Luchette, recently senior adviser to House Antitrust Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.), is joining Precision Strategies as a communications principal.

Eyeballs on eyeballs: “A Wall Street Journal investigation found that TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what you want: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content.”

Hindsight is 20/20: “President Joe Biden didn’t heed pleas from activists and congressional Democrats last year that he put a dedicated czar or task force in charge of countering falsehoods about Covid vaccines — despite warnings that conspiracy theories about public health were creating “tragic consequences,” via my colleague Alex Levine.

Holy seen: “The top administrator of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resigned after a Catholic media site told the conference it had access to cellphone data that appeared to show he was a regular user of Grindr, the queer dating app, and frequented gay bars,” The Washington Post reports.

Velvet rope drops: Everyone can join Clubhouse now, per The Hill.

Independence Day: The White House outlines staff protocol for dealings with independent agencies like the FCC and FTC.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.




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