Party Lines on AT&T, T-Mobile Deal Taking Shape

Democrat provides the only fireworks at House hearing

WASHINGTON—A hearing on AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile that the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet held Thursday didn’t unearth anything new in the ongoing debate over the merger. Most of the ground had already been covered a week and a half ago on the Senate side. And, like a politician on the stump, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, even delivered the same presentation.

Still, the hearing did provide a look at the way opinions on the deal have crystallized along party lines.  Republicans tread lightly on the merger, asking questions that were more inquisitive than argumentative. So it fell to one Democrat, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, to provide the day's fireworks.

Continuing a diatribe about "Ma Cell" that he began at a press conference about the sale that Democrats held Wednesday, Conyers said, "I see no redeeming reason for this merger to go through. Not even one."

But on Wednesday, at that press conference, Conyers had been joined by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and several public interest groups. For most of the hearing, he seemed almost alone.  After a long lunch break, though, Conyers got some company from two fellow Democrats, Reps. Maxine Waters and Sheila Jackson Lee, who honed in on the issues of jobs and minority ownership.