Alvaro Bedoya’s confirmation to the FTC gives Lina Khan her Democratic majority

It took eight months of hearings, appointments, health-related delays and a casting vote by the vice president, but the Senate confirmed Alvaro Bedoya as Fifth Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. More importantly – and almost certainly because confirming him has been such a long and controversial process – he is his third Democrat and will likely be a deciding vote himself soon.

The FTC was stalled with two Republican commissioners (Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson) and two Democrats (President Lina Khan and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter) for most of Khan’s term. Whatever Khan wanted to do that would require a vote of the committee or would have had to get the support of at least one Republican or it would not have happened at all.

“Alvaro’s knowledge, experience and energy will be a great asset to the FTC as we pursue our fundamental work,” Khan said in a statement. “I am thrilled to start working with him, along with our other Commissioners, once his appointment is finalized by President Biden.”

Bedoya comes to the FTC from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, of which he was the founding director. His appointment, which took place way back in September, was welcomed by the defenders of privacy. Bedoya said in his confirmation hearing last year he intended to focus on privacy issues, including data and facial recognition. Without a federal consumer privacy law, the FTC’s powers are limited, but it can still … and has – persecuted companies for privacy issues.

At his hearing, Senate Republicans said they challenged not Bedoya’s privacy stance, but his public tweets. Bedoya tweeted that President Trump is a white supremacist and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a “home surveillance agency. ” At the hearing, Senator Ted Cruz accused Bedoya of being a “leftist activist, a provocateur, a bomb thrower and an extremist. Senator Roger Wicker said he thought Bedoya’s “jarring views” meant he would not be able to work with Republican commissioners. Bedoya said those tweets were made when he was a private citizen and were in response to government actions he deemed harmful. On Tuesday, the day before Bedoya’s confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Bedoya a “foolish choice” and a “terrible appointment”.

It’s more likely that Republicans’ problems weren’t with Bedoya or his tweets, but with the fact that Bedoya gave the FTC the Democratic majority it has lacked since Rohit Chopra left in October. republicans they are not enthusiastic with Khan’s work at the FTC, to say the least, seeing her as a divisive radical progressive who is bent on reshaping the agency’s approach to antitrust and giving it more authority than they think it should have. The business world is also not a fan of Khan. The United States Chamber of Commerce lobbying group created no secret about his problems with her and recently sent a letter under Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell urging them to postpone the vote on Bedoya because his confirmation would give Khan a majority. Proponents of the antitrust reform, on the other hand, celebrated Bedoya’s confirmation.

“In addition to President Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, we can finally imagine an effective FTC that plays a vital role in leveling the playing field and restoring our nation’s economy,” Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement.

The anti-Bedoya side has been making its way for a while; Bedoya’s confirmation was significantly delayed. It took so long for the Senate to confirm Bedoya that he had to be renamed earlier this year. When it became clear that no Republican would vote for Bedoya, Schumer had to wait for every Democratic Senator and Vice President Harris to be in attendance to vote for him. The first attempts were thwarted when Senator Ben Ray Luján had a stroke, and then again when several Democratic senators and the vice president tested positive for Covid-19. On May 11, Bedoya was confirmed 51-50.

This is not to say that the FTC has done nothing during the past seven months of deadlock. The agency unanimously decided to block a massive mergers between semiconductor chip companies Nvidia and ARM, as well a merger between Lockheed Martin and Aerojet. And Khan has been able to get on with things that don’t need an agency vote and probably wouldn’t have gotten Republican commissioners’ votes if they did.

khan he was unable to get the votes for a study on pharmacy benefit managers, which he said “very disappointed“here. And the FTC did not act on Amazon MGM merger before its closure, which many I expected that given Khan’s story of criticizing Amazon for alleged anti-competitive actions.

Bedoya will join an agency that appears to have some internal problems. There is a squabble within the commissioner, for example: Wilson has done No secret of his disgust with Khan’s approach to leadership and antitrust enforcement. But a recent survey it also showed that the agency employees’ trust and respect for senior leaders plummeted during Khan’s short tenure. The FTC told Recode that the survey was conducted during a period of notable change at the FTC and that Khan has “tremendous respect” for the FTC staff and is “committed to ensuring that the FTC continues to be a great place to work. ”

As for the Republican commissioners, however, there is reason to believe that they will get along with Bedoya better than they do with Khan. Last November, Wilson tweeted that he “would be really happy to welcome” him and his knowledge of privacy, adding that “he’s a really nice guy I like to interact with!” And Phillips said last September that Bedoya would be a “bright and caring voice”.

With Bedoya on board, Khan looks forward to running the FTC as he did last summer, when the FTC had three Democratic commissioners, which is definitely the way she has imagined since becoming president. During that time, the agency successfully resumed its lawsuit against Meta, with Wilson and Phillips by voting against it. Khan no longer has to settle for what Republican commissioners will put up with. That Amazon-MGM merger may be closed, but it can still be challenged.

And perhaps Bedoya, true to his word, will work to improve consumer data privacy. Khan has already reported that the FTC will look into data privacy, which it has achieved a lot recent attention following the news that roe deer v. veal it can be overturned, both as a matter of consumer protection and competition. This should make Big Tech companies nervous, whose power largely comes from the data they collect.