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Democrats Want to Seize Populism From Trump

Prepare their agenda with a new focus on antitrust policy

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in Berryville, Va., for Monday afternoon’s rollout. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in Berryville, Va., for Monday afternoon’s rollout. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When congressional Democrats unveil their “better deal” agenda Monday afternoon, they will be trying to reclaim the populist mantle from President Donald Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer says the shift in messaging is about a commitment to reorienting the function of government.

“We are in the minority in both houses of Congress; we cannot promise anyone that this Congress will begin passing our priorities tomorrow. But we have to start raising our voices to present our vision for the country’s future,” the New York Democrat writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “We will seek the support of any Republicans willing to work with us, but more important, we must start rallying the American people to support our ideas.”

One of the key planks, in what could be a throwback to the early 20th century, is about antitrust enforcement.

The House and Senate Democrats want to see a system in which very large companies that seek to engage in mergers and acquisitions are assumed to be creating an anti-competitive situation unless they are able to demonstrate otherwise.

“We propose establishing new merger standards that require a broader, longer-term view and strong presumptions that market concentration can result in anticompetitive conduct,” a summary provided by the Democrats says. “These standards will prevent not only mergers that unfairly increase prices but also those that unfairly reduce competition — they will ensure that regulators carefully scrutinize whether mergers reduce wages, cut jobs, lower product quality, limit access to services, stifle innovation, or hinder the ability of small businesses and entrepreneurs to compete.”

Schumer, appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said that some of the fault for large consolidations rests with approvals during times of Democratic control.

“How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” Schumer asked, rhetorically.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing, is among the expected speakers at Monday afternoon’s formal rollout in Berryville, Va., about 45 minutes northwest of Dulles International Airport.

Warren has spoken at length about seeking stronger antitrust enforcement, at times directly targeting companies like cable giant Comcast. A draft summary of the new Democratic policy agenda circulated Monday morning features a call for lowering cable television bills.

The other pillars of Monday’s rollout are in some ways more predictable, with calls for lowering the cost-of-living for middle income families, infrastructure investments, increasing wages and preserving the social safety net of Medicare and Social Security.

House and Senate Democratic leaders said they received ideas and feedback from broad swaths of members in their respective caucuses. Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, as co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, were involved in coordinating the effort on their side of the Capitol.

“We can continue down this path of a rigged system and allow Washington to turn a blind eye to painful economic realities that so many Americans are facing. Or we can stand on the side of the American people. We can invest in hardworking families and build an economy that puts Americans first ― defined by better jobs, better wages and a better future,” the three House members wrote in a CNN opinion piece.

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