The US Senate is set to confirm Georgetown University visiting law professor Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said if the Senate votes 50-50, Vice President Kamala Harris will break the deadlock.
Alvaro Bedoya’s Appointment To FTC Can Break Agency Deadlock
Earlier last month, the US Senate took a procedural vote to allow Alvaro Bedoya’s nomination to the FTC to proceed. Previously, the committee deadlocked 14-14 on his nomination.
This is why Schumer also tried a cloture vote to end the debate and move to an up or down vote this week.
Until a new FTC commissioner joins the agency, the FTC will remain tied up with a 2-2 deadlock among its members. Currently, there are two Democrat and two Republican commissioners serving the FTC.
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This includes chairperson Lina Khan, a Democrat appointee. Until the agency resolves its own deadlock, regulatory action remains impossible at the agency.
VP Harris Expected To Break Senate Deadlock
In case the Senate splits the vote into party lines, Vice President Kamala Harris will step in to break the deadlock. Her vote will ensure that Alvaro Bedoya will get the majority votes for his confirmation as the fifth FTC commissioner.
Bedoya “will give Lina Khan and the FTC the majority to go after the oil companies and go after gouging,” Schumer said.
Alvaro Bedoya is a visiting law professor at Georgetown University. He is also a former chief counsel of the Senate’s Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law.
Bedoya is known for his focus on digital privacy issues. Democrats view Bedoya’s nomination as critical in the FTC’s investigations on algorithms, cybersecurity, privacy, and other antitrust issues.
In contrast to the Democrats, Senate Republicans vow to block Alvaro Bedoya’s nomination. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) said that he can’t vote for Bedoya due to his “divisive social media statements” on immigration.
Previously, Bedoya’s research showed the potential for artificial intelligence and facial recognition to discriminate against minorities.
Bedoya will drive the agency “further down the hyper-partisan path it has taken under Chair Lina Khan,” Wicker said.
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Schumer Eager for FTC to Investigate Oil Companies Accused of Price Gouging
In addition, Schumer also hoped that Alvaro Bedoya’s nomination gives the FTC enough votes to finally go after oil companies. Democrats are accusing American oil companies of gouging consumers with high gasoline prices.
On average, US fuel prices average more than $4 per gallon nationally. In contrast, gas prices were only $2.90 during the same time last year. This is according to the American Automobile Association.
However, Schumer said that oil companies are enjoying record profits even as fuel prices go up. Oil companies are currently busy working on stock buybacks.
This stock repurchase program only enriches investors instead of increasing oil production. Consequently, Schumer also vowed that Democrats will introduce legislation to give the FTC more power to protect consumers.
Incidentally, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on Congress to expand FTC authority against price gouging.
American Petroleum Institute Say Schumer, Democrats Wrong
Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute insists that the Democrats have it wrong. The API, which represents oil and natural gas companies, said that petroleum prices follow the laws of supply and demand.
Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the prices of oil in the international market remain high. Supply remains a touchy issue, especially since Russia is the subject of a worldwide embargo on trade. However, Russia is a major exporter of oil and natural gas.
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