By Brian Fung, CNN Business
One of President Joe Biden’s key administrative nominees is a step closer to confirmation after Alvaro Bedoya, Biden’s pick for Federal Trade Commissioner, narrowly cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday.
The decision paves the way for a final floor vote on Bedoya’s nomination, to be held at a later time. But what was supposed to be a 15-minute process on Wednesday stretched on for over two hours, culminating in Vice President Kamala Harris traveling to Capitol Hill to break a 50-50 tie.
The close Senate vote reflects a partisan rift over Bedoya, a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s law school and founding director of its center on privacy.
Bedoya’s nomination is considered critical as the Federal Trade Commission ramps up enforcement on algorithms, cybersecurity, privacy, and a slew of antitrust issues surrounding Big Tech.
If Bedoya is confirmed, it would give Democrats a voting majority at the FTC and break a months-long 2-2 partisan deadlock at the antitrust and consumer protection agency.
Senate Republicans have opposed Bedoya’s nomination. Sen. Roger Wicker, the Senate Commerce Committee’s top Republican, reiterated his disapproval Tuesday, citing what he said were Bedoya’s “divisive social media statements” on immigration issues.
Bedoya’s past research has focused on the potential for artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to discriminate against minorities.
“Mr. Bedoya’s record shows that he would drive the FTC, an agency with a tradition of bipartisanship, further down the hyper-partisan path it has taken under Chair Lina Khan,” Wicker said in a statement.
Senate Democrats have called for Bedoya to be confirmed so that the FTC can continue to do its work.
“The FTC is the security guard for America’s consumers,” Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said in a Tuesday floor speech. “The FTC needs to be able to protect all Americans, and to accomplish that we need to have a commission that is not deadlocked, but has somebody like Mr. Bedoya who can help us move ahead on these issues.”
Lawmakers’ divide over Bedoya resulted in a 14-14 tie vote earlier this year on whether to advance his nomination out of the Senate Commerce Committee. That prompted Wednesday’s procedural move to discharge Bedoya’s nomination from the committee and to allow for a full Senate vote.
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