By Leah Nylen Originally published on FTCWatch™ on March 2, 2018
A Senate panel voted Wednesday to approve the nominations of Joseph Simons to be chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and Rohit Chopra, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson to be commissioners.
The Senate Commerce Committee approved the four nominations by voice vote. The nominations still require a final confirmation vote by the full Senate.
President Donald Trump nominated the three Republicans and one Democrat, Chopra, to the FTC earlier this year. He has yet to nominate a commissioner to the fifth spot, who by law cannot be a Republican. Rebecca Slaughter, chief counsel to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is understood to be the Democrats’ choice for the slot.
Before Wednesday’s vote, Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, a Republican, pledged to move the fifth nominee through the confirmation process quickly once he or she is named.
“We’re still awaiting the nomination of the fifth and final commissioner and I’m committed to moving that nominee expeditiously,” Thune said.
But Senator Bill Nelson, the leading Democrat on the panel, expressed reservations about moving the four nominees into position without the final commissioner.
“As we saw with the nominations for some other independent commissions, the White House has again chosen to give the Democratic nominee the shortest term possible, while giving the Republican nominees the longer terms. So much for bipartisanship,” Nelson said. “These commissions were set up to be balanced and exercise professional not political judgments. Sadly this just takes us down the road of further politicization of these agencies and it's downright disappointing.”
Chopra was nominated to fill a term that expires in September 2019. Phillips, Simons and Wilson were nominated to terms that expire in 2023, 2024 and 2025, respectively.
It is understood that Democrats are concerned that if they agree to move forward with some or all of the current nominees, the White House won't have an incentive to ever nominate a fifth commissioner, leaving the agency permanently with only one Democrat.
The five-member commission has struggled along with only two members — Republican Maureen Ohlhausen and Democrat Terrell McSweeny — for nearly a year awaiting nominees.
Simons would replace Ohlhausen as chairman. She has served as acting chairman since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.