The Senate voted 51-50 Wednesday to confirm Alvaro Bedoya to serve on the Federal Trade Commission, giving Democrats a majority on the five-member board and opening the door for more aggressive policing of antitrust and consumer-protection laws.
Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.
Bedoya was the founding director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law and previously served as chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary privacy subcommittee, then chaired by former Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.
“Alvaro Bedoya’s confirmation…is good news for the American people and brings the agency back to full strength to enforce antitrust protections, fight against price gougers, market manipulators, and those trying to rip off American consumers,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.
The agency had been deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans serving on the committee since September, when former FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra was confirmed as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan only briefly had a Democratic majority on the committee before Chopra’s departure. Now that her majority has been restored, she will have the votes needed to push forward controversial measures, according to Owen Tedford, senior research analyst at Beacon Policy Advisors.
“Restoring her majority will enable her to have the agency block deals on antitrust grounds without relying on Republican votes as well as continue the partisan reforms that she has been unable to pursue since last September,” Tedford wrote. “The overarching goal that Khan has been trying to achieve is to create more uncertainty and raise transaction costs for mergers and acquisitions out of a hope that this will discourage companies from pursuing deals.”
The FTC announced in January that it was conducting a public inquiry, jointly with the Justice Department’s Antitrust division that is aimed at strengthening enforcement against illegal mergers, and it may use the results of the inquiry in the development of new guidelines that describe the federal government’s analytical approach to merger approval.
Khan has had some early successes stopping high-profile mergers after suing to block Lockheed Martin Corp’s
proposed $4.4 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc.
and Nvidia Corp.’s
attempted acquisition of Arm Holdings PLC. Both companies abandoned those deals following the FTC lawsuits.
Democrats on the FTC are also likely to use their majority to issue new consumer protection regulations, according to Beacon’s Tedford.
“Areas of focus for these new rules include data privacy, Big Tech competition, and licensing restrictions, all of which were part of President Biden’s competition policy executive order from last July,” he wrote. “Khan will likely look to start these rulemaking processes as soon as possible if she wants to be able to serve as an enforcer of them given the amount of time it will take to see them finalized.”