Antitrust Law Daily FTC nominations advance on Senate Commerce Committee vote
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

FTC nominations advance on Senate Commerce Committee vote

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

The Senate Commerce Committee today approved President Trump’s four picks to serve on the FTC. The nominations, which were sent to the Senate on January 25, are moving quickly and now require Senate confirmation. Just two weeks ago, the Commerce Committee held a hearing to consider the nominees: Joseph Simons, the FTC Chairman Designate, Rohit Chopra, Noah Joshua Phillips, and Christine S. Wilson.

Prior to the voice vote reporting the nominations favorably, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), committee chairman, expressed his confidence in the nominees. He also noted that the committee was waiting to hear from the White House on the nomination of the fifth and final commissioner. "I am hopeful it will be coming soon and am committed to considering the nominee expeditiously," Thune said.

Meanwhile, in his opening statement, Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D.-Fla.) expressed concern that the lone Democrat nominee, Rohit Chopra, was given the shortest term possible. He added that the White House in an apparent trend for nominations for independent commissions, gave the Republican nominees longer terms.

"So much for bipartisanship," said Nelson. "These commissions were set up to be balanced, and exercise professional—not political—judgements. Sadly, this just takes us down the road to further polarization of these agencies and is truly disappointing."

Chopra, a Consumer Federation of America senior fellow, would serve the remainder of a term expiring September 2019, which was previously held by former Commissioner Joshua Wright. Wright resigned in 2015.

As for the Republican nominees, the pick to head the agency—Simons—who is currently a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and was a former FTC Bureau of Competition director, has been nominated to serve the remainder of a seven-year term that began in September 2017. Wilson, senior vice president–regulatory and international affairs at Delta Air Lines, was nominated for the seat held by Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, which expires in September 2018 and for the seven-year term that follows. Ohlhausen will leave the agency, when her nomination to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is confirmed. Lastly, if confirmed, Phillips, chief counsel for Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.), would serve the remainder of former Commissioner Julie Brill’s term, which ends in 2023.

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