The Senate Commerce Committee deadlocked on a vote to confirm Alvaro Bedoya’s nomination to become one of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) five commissioners.
On Dec. 1, the committee voted 14–14 on the nomination, but under Senate rules, it can proceed to the full Senate for a vote.
President Joe Biden nominated Bedoya in September to join the board of the FTC, which deals primarily with antitrust and consumer protection law.
Bedoya, a Georgetown University law professor, has focused much of his work on the connection between facial recognition technology and civil rights. More specifically, Bedoya has argued that facial recognition technology has often been used in a way that is biased against immigrants and other minorities.
If confirmed, Bedoya would join the FTC under newly installed Chair Lina Khan, and give Democrats a 3–2 majority.
Khan has been outspoken in supporting the use of antitrust law against tech giants. In his role, Bedoya would focus on the FTC’s goal of consumer protection.
Citing Bedoya’s “divisive views,” the committee’s ranking Republican member, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), was one of the 14 Republicans to vote against the confirmation. Bedoya’s Twitter page showcases some of these “divisive views.”
On Twitter, Bedoya has given his endorsement to the Immigrant Defense Project, which markets itself as “promot[ing] fundamental fairness for immigrants accused or convicted of crimes.” More specifically, the organization has a focus on illegal and non-naturalized immigrants, describing one of its aims as “working to transform unjust deportation laws and policies.”
Bedoya has also opined on a litany of other issues, including abortion issues and Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar social spending bill.
“I will not vote to report the nomination of Mr. Bedoya to be the commissioner of the FTC,” Wicker said in his opening remarks. “I remain concerned about the frequency with which he has expressed divisive views on policy matters, rather than a more unified and measured tone.
“There has been a troubling trend of politicization at the FTC, which is different from how it has been in previous years. I fear Mr. Bedoya would not bring the cooperative spirit to the commission that we need at this time.”
Later in the session, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for a vote on Bedoya’s nomination.
The committee, composed of 14 Democrats and 14 Republicans, voted along party lines. Even Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has struck a moderate tone against fellow Democrats on several occasions, joined with the party to vote for the nomination.
Given the current composition of the Senate, evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put in place a new procedural maneuver to allow deadlocked committees to be bypassed altogether.
Under the new rules, either leader can put forward a motion to bring matters straight to the Senate floor in the event of a tie in committee.
If Bedoya’s nomination is sent to the Senate floor under this procedure, Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote would push Bedoya’s nomination over the finish line—assuming that all 50 Senate Democrats unanimously support the nominee.
The evenly split Senate has already used the procedure to confirm Biden nominees.
In March, Xavier Becerra’s nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services was evenly split in the Senate Finance Committee in another 14–14 vote.
But even if the procedure is invoked to bring Bedoya to a floor vote, his confirmation is far from guaranteed.
Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a self-described “conservative Democrat,” has been willing to break with his party on issues—including Biden nominees.
Early in Biden’s tenure in office, Manchin joined with Senate Republicans to strike down Biden’s nominee for White House budget director, Neera Tanden. Without Manchin’s support, Harris can’t cast a tie-breaking vote.
Manchin, who has emphasized the importance of unifying the divided nation, may also take issue with Bedoya’s views on divisive issues and could derail the nomination.
If Bedoya is confirmed, it will be another loss for Biden, who has in the past failed to have nominees confirmed. Aside from Tanden, Biden also was forced to withdraw gun control advocate David Chipman’s nomination to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for views that several Democrats, including Manchin, found unpalatable.