Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny

Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny
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The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on AT&T's proposed $85 billion deal to purchase Time Warner.

Lawmakers will examine antitrust concerns over the planned tie-up between wireless giant AT&T and an entertainment powerhouse that includes HBO, CNN and Warner Brothers.

The merger has become a political flash point, attracting critics from both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) has urged the Justice Department to kill the merger on the grounds that it would harm American consumers.

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"This merger represents a gross concentration of power that runs counter to the public good and should be blocked," Sanders wrote in October.  

"The media and telecommunications landscape is changing," he added. "It is important that public policy concerns guide these changes, so that we may preserve our democratic discourse and open competitive markets for speech and commerce."

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE also criticized the merger on the campaign trail, saying that he wouldn't approve it if elected.

He characterized it as "an example of the power structure I am fighting."

"It's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few," Trump said.

But since the election, the president-elect's transition team has reportedly suggested otherwise to AT&T. After a meeting with the Trump team, AT&T reportedly expressed confidence they could close the deal.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes will both be testifying at the Wednesday hearing. Also appearing before the panel are Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures; Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge; and Daphna Ziman, the president Cinemoi.

The big merger isn't the only item on lawmakers' minds in the coming week. Congress is looking to quickly pass government funding and head home early for the holidays.

Funding is set to expire on Dec. 9th and lawmakers are looking at a continuing resolution running through March or April.

The last time lawmakers moved a continuing resolution in September, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R-Texas) led a fight to include language that would block the Obama administration from handing off oversight of the internet to an international body.

Cruz's effort failed, and the transition process for managing internet domains has already begun. But many tech watchers will be closely eyeing the spending bill for any efforts to undercut the transition.

There could also be a deal on Jessica Rosenworcel's confirmation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the coming week.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE (D-Nev.) told Politico that they're "very close" to an agreement with Republicans who have stalled her Rosenworcel's nomination to a second term as a commissioner. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House MORE (R-S.D.) has also expressed hopes for a deal.

Rosenworcel, a Dem, needs to be reconfirmed by the end of the year to remain on the panel.

Hanging over the prospects for a deal is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's future plans.

Republicans want Wheeler to step down at the end of the Obama administration. Wheeler though has been coy on his plans. At the FCC's last open meeting he told reporters he hasn't yet set a departure date. GOP lawmakers would be less likely to allow Rosenworcel's confirmation if they know Wheeler intends to stay on.

 

 

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