Federal Trade Commission (FTC) nominee Lina Khan speaks during a confirmation hearing for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on April 21, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuters
Technology critic Lina Khan’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission will result in a full Senate vote after a committee voted Wednesday to approve the nomination.
Four members of the Senate Commerce Committee voted against the move, all Republicans: Sens. Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, Mike Lee from Utah, Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming, and Dan Sullivan from Alaska.
Blackburn and Lee in particular had previously expressed skepticism about Khan’s nomination and pointed to a lack of experience. At 32, Khan would be the youngest commissioner if confirmed.
However, the committee’s top Republican, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, was optimistic about Khan’s nomination ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“I think it is focused on addressing one of the most pressing problems of the day: curbing the major social media platforms,” he said. “However, I remain concerned that a largely over-regulatory approach as an FTC commissioner could have a negative impact on the economy and undermine free market principles.”
Khan made a name for herself in antitrust circles after she published “Amazon Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal in 2017 while she was a student. The article examined how the commonly used standard for consumer wellbeing, often defined by whether or not prices go up, could overlook important anti-competitive behavior in digital markets like the one in which Amazon operates.
Khan later helped investigate and prepare a major antitrust report examining digital markets, and specifically Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google for the House’s Antitrust Subcommittee. The Democratic Workers’ report found that every company had retained monopoly power and made broad proposals to stimulate competition in the market, including through major legal changes and possible business breakups.
Khan’s vocal criticism of the big tech companies seems to win over her right-wing allies who could help secure the role of FTC commissioner. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a staunch conservative and one of the party’s toughest technology critics, told Khan at her nomination hearing that he looked forward to working with her.
If Khan is confirmed, President Joe Biden will have to appoint another commissioner or chairman for the FTC to fill the agency’s five seats. He has appointed current Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra to head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and has yet to appoint a permanent chair after appointing Democrat Acting Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.
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