On May 12, the Senate Commerce Committee voted overwhelmingly to move forward with Lina Khan’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which suggest that Khan is likely to be confirmed as an FTC commissioner by the full Senate. Khan has been a critic of big tech and advocate of competitive markets, as we previously discussed here.
Khan received unanimous support from the Commerce Committee’s Democratic members, and eight of the 12 Republican members also voted to proceed with her nomination. Showing Republican support, Sen. Roger Wicker stated, “I believe she is focused on addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day: reining in the big social media platforms. However, I do remain concerned that a broadly over-regulatory approach as an FTC commissioner could have a negative effect on the economy and undermine free market principles.”
The Commerce Committee’s broad support for Khan may signal that both parties support a stronger stance against big tech. At her April 21 confirmation hearing, Khan stated, “I’ve been quite public about my concerns about concentrated power in the context of digital markets. On the competition side, we’re continuing to see a whole range of potential risks.” Khan also expressed her concern that some big tech companies are using their success in one market to dominate others.
If Khan is confirmed, President Joe Biden will need to nominate another commissioner or chair to the FTC to fill out its five seats. He has nominated current FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as we discussed here, but has not named a permanent FTC chair after naming Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as acting chair.
Senate Democratic leaders may be holding up the confirmation vote for Chopra until Khan is confirmed, so that Khan may step into Chopra’s vacated FTC seat and avoid the possibility of Slaughter being the only Democratic FTC commissioner.