The Federal Trade Commission finally has the power to move forward with its progressive enforcement and policy agenda after the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s candidate for fifth commissioner on Wednesday.
The Senate voted to confirm Alvaro Bedoya 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the casting vote.
The vote unlocks a stalemate between the two Democratic and two Republican commissioners over the FTC, chaired by progressive antitrust academic Lina Khan, paving the way for moving forward with its more ambitious agenda items. This could include an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, which the agency would have probed. It could also include digital privacy regulation and a narrower view of which mergers to approve, as the agency reviews major deals including from Microsoft planned gamemaker purchase Activision Blizzard.
The vote comes months after Biden Bedoya first mentioned In September, the founding director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology faced harsh criticism from Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee over his past tweets, including a retweet comparing the 2016 Republican National Convention with a rally of the supremacist white and a tweet in which he called Immigration and law enforcement “An out-of-control internal surveillance agency that peers into all of our lives.”
As a result, the committee blocked twice on whether to recommend his nomination to the entire Senate.
At the beginning of Khan’s term as chairman, the commission had a full list of five people, including three Democrats – the maximum allowed by any party at a time. But since former FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra was confirmed to a new role at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency has only two commissioners on each side.
That deadlock meant that the agency could only move forward with enforcement measures, political positions, or regulations that at least one Republican commissioner would accept. And minority commissioners have openly opposed Khan’s approach to running the agency.
Some members of the business community are wary of a Khan-led FTC in full swing.
“Rather than a rubber stamp, a fifth commissioner from the Federal Trade Commission must act as a check on President Khan’s radical agenda that aims to” shape the distribution of power and opportunity in our economy, ‘”the House Chief Policy Officer Bradley United States Commerce Officer said in a statement Tuesday. “Until more is known about Alvaro Bedoya’s views on transparency, due process, statutory authority and basic management of the Commission, it would be irresponsible to confirm this as Khan’s deciding vote.”
In his academic career, Khan has argued that the US needs to use a broader framework to consider antitrust challenges against tech companies like Amazon, rather than the decades-old standard of consumer welfare, which places an emphasis on monetary costs for customers.
In a memorandum last fall, Khan set out his vision for the agency, including breaking down the silos between competition and consumer protection bureaus and acting swiftly to mitigate harm, particularly in “technologies, innovations and industries.” rising next generation in all industries. “
Since then, the agency has taken some measures that have upset the business community, such as the suspension of early terminations, a policy that allows certain low-risk transactions to be closed before the waiting period expires, and the issuance of letters that they warn parties that the agency isn’t done looking at their deal, so they might merge at your own risk.