By Diane Bartz and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to be a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, giving President Joe Biden’s Democrats control of the agency.
Bedoya, who teaches at Georgetown Law School, was confirmed on a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. Bedoya’s confirmation gives Democrats a 3-2 majority among FTC commissioners.
The FTC enforces antitrust law and helps fight scams. For the past several months it has been run by a Democratic chair, Lina Khan, joined by another Democrat and two Republicans. A tie vote on any decision prevents the commission from going forward.
In February, Democrats on the commission failed to win needed Republican support for a study on pharmacy benefit managers, like CVS Caremark, which serve as intermediaries between drug manufacturers, health insurance plans and pharmacies to negotiate prescription drug prices.
With Bedoya’s confirmation, there could be another attempt to undertake that study along with other efforts that Republicans oppose.
Bedoya, founding director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, is also a former chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had urged the Senate to delay consideration of Bedoya, saying they wanted a fifth commissioner who would rein in FTC Chair Khan, a progressive who has advocated tough antitrust policies.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer had said confirming Bedoya was a priority.
“With the FTC at full membership, this important agency will be empowered to drive full steam ahead in cracking down on bad actor companies who are using anticompetitive practices, inflation, and price manipulation to bilk consumers and drive up profits,” he said in a statement.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Richard Cowan; Editing by Mark Porter and Howard Goller)