Senate Advances Alvaro Bedoya Nomination; Confirmation Would Break FTC Deadlock

The Senate narrowly advanced the nomination of Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission, as Democrats seek to end a deadlock on the commission and advance an agenda likely to take a harder line on corporation consolidation and tech giants.

The vote on Wednesday was 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. The Senate Commerce Committee split 14-14 earlier this month on the nomination, meaning that Democrats needed to use a more complicated legislative maneuver to move it forward via what is called a discharge petition. Bedoya now faces additional Senate votes before confirmation, but that can happen if all members of the Democratic caucus stick together.

The FTC under chair Lina Khan did not challenge Amazon’s acquisition of MGM before the two companies closed the transaction, disappointing some union and public interest groups that had urged the agency to take a harder line. But any effort to challenge the merger likely would have been complicated by the lack of a Democratic majority on the FTC given the expectation that two Republican commissioners were expected to vote against a challenge to the transaction.

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Still, the Writers Guild of America, Teamsters and other groups have urged the FTC to still challenge the transaction even post-merger. An FTC spokesperson also did not rule out such a scenario. “The FTC does not comment on any particular matters. However, we reiterate that the Commission does not approve transactions and may challenge a deal at any time if it determines that it violates the law,” the spokesperson said.

Republicans opposed the Bedoya nomination by arguing that he would be too partisan for the agency, pointing to some of hios past social media posts.

Still unclear is when the Senate will move on the nomination of Gigi Sohn to the FCC. That nomination also was deadlocked in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Bedoya is the founding director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. The FTC is expected to move to pass a comprehensive set of privacy rules for internet companies. The FTC and the Justice Department’s antitrust division are in the midst of a review of merger guidelines, with the expectation that they will lead to stricter enforcement.

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