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Senate Commerce Deadlocks Over Bedoya’s Nomination to FTC (1)

Dec. 1, 2021, 3:55 PMUpdated: Dec. 1, 2021, 5:14 PM

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted 14-14 on Alvaro Bedoya’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission.

Despite the committee deadlock, the nomination could still head to the Senate floor, where Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the deciding vote when needed. In an interim step, the Senate would need to discharge the committee from further consideration of the nomination, according to a committee spokeswoman.

It remains to be seen when the Senate might vote on Bedoya as Congress approaches its year-end break.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, voted against Bedoya’s confirmation, citing the nominee’s “divisive views” after other Republicans earlier questioned Bedoya’s tweets on issues including immigration.

Committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who backed Bedoya’s confirmation, said she looked forward to working with him on consumer data privacy policy, given his “experience and expertise” in the space.

Bedoya, a Georgetown University Law Center professor, is likely to bring a focus on privacy and civil rights to the five-member FTC, based on his past focus on issues including bias in facial recognition technology and surveillance of American immigrants.

During his nomination hearing, Bedoya advocated for greater scrutiny of facial recognition’s privacy impacts. Companies such as Meta Platforms Inc. have stepped back from using the technology amid public pushback.

President Joe Biden nominated Bedoya in September to replace former FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra, who now leads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If confirmed as a FTC commissioner, Bedoya plans to prioritize privacy protections for children online, according to written responses to questions from the Senate Commerce Committee.

“As a parent, I am deeply concerned with kids’ and teenagers’ ability to navigate the internet and tech platforms,” Bedoya wrote. “This strikes me as one of the most urgent issues facing Congress and the commission, and if confirmed, this would be a top priority for me.”

In his responses, Bedoya called for an investigation into the issue of addictive technologies and a study on “information asymmetries” that he said leave parents in the dark about potential harms of technology on their children.

(Updates with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kibkabe Araya at karaya@bloombergindustry.com