Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger

Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger
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A group of Democratic senators is calling on the Justice Department to block the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, arguing the megadeal would hurt consumers.

“Before initiating the next big wave of media consolidation, you must consider how the $85 billion deal will impact Americans' wallets, as well as their access to a wide-range of news and entertainment programming,” the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE.

“Should you determine that the substantial harms to competition and consumers arising from the transaction outweigh the purported benefits, you should reject the proposed acquisition.”

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The group is led by Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenVirginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? Identity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination MORE (D-Minn.) and includes Democratic Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGreen New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing We can have a Green New Deal, and air travel too 2020 Dem slams Green New Deal: As realistic as Trump's claim that Mexico will pay for wall MORE (Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Dems introduce bill to take gender-specific terms out of tax code to make it LGBT-inclusive 8 surprising times our intel community spied on US citizens MORE (Ore.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyThe border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (Ore.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks White House poised to take action on AI, 5G Overnight Energy: States press Trump on pollution rules | EPA puts climate skeptic on science board | Senate tees up vote on federal lands bill MORE (Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownPollster says current 2020 surveys like picking best picture Oscar before movies come out Shep Smith: Signing funding bill is a 'loss' for Trump no matter how it's packaged Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race MORE (Ohio), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid Why does the bankruptcy code discriminate against disabled veterans? MORE (Wis.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE (I-Vt.).

In a statement to The Hill, an AT&T spokesman pushed back on the letter, arguing that the merger will help increase consumer choice and that concerns over the deal's threat to content discrimination are overblown.

“We’ve addressed all of the issues raised by this letter in AT&T’s and Time Warner’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last January, in our February 2017 response to this same group of Senators, as well as in the extensive review of this transaction currently in process at the Department of Justice," the spokesman said.

"Specifically, we’ve highlighted how our merger is about giving consumers more choices, not less," he added.

President Trump railed against the merger as a candidate in October, vowing that his administration would not allow it to go through. But since taking office he has generally appointed conservatives to his administration who are inclined to take a less intrusive approach to regulating mergers.

In their letter, the Democrats argued the merger could lead to less competition among mobile broadband and television providers. And they raised concerns AT&T could violate net neutrality principles by restricting competitors' online and television content in favor of its own.

“As the DOJ finalizes its review of the transaction, we call on you to defend American competition and innovation and ensure that Americans have open and affordable access to communications services, as well as a wide range of programming,” the letter reads. “We hope you'll take a stand for U.S. consumers and businesses and closely scrutinize the transaction.”

Updated: 4:33 p.m.