Lina Khan, a law professor and outspoken critic of big tech companies’ market power, appears headed to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission following bipartisan endorsement Wednesday from the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
The nomination now will go to the full U.S. Senate.
Eight of the committee’s 12 Republicans and all of its Democrats voted to advance the nomination of Kahn, who at 32 will become the five-member FTC’s youngest-ever commissioner. Kahn, who teaches at Columbia University Law School, served on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic staff and before that, as a Yale Law School student, wrote a highly-regarded article criticizing the market practices of some major Silicon Valley players.
Wednesday’s vote on Kahn’s nomination created an unusual outcome for the committee, with some of its more-conservative members, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, voting in favor of a nominee who also enjoyed the vocal support of the more-liberal Democrats on the panel.
During her April 21 confirmation hearing before the same committee that approved her nomination today (May 12), Khan articulated her support for putting companies such as Google-parent Alphabet and Apple Inc. under greater scrutiny. She spoke specifically about the companies’ app stores.
“The source of the power is the fact that you have basically these two main options, and so that gives these companies the power to really set the terms in this market,” she said, according to a Bloomberg report at the time. “Certain terms and conditions really lack any type of beneficial justification, and so I think in those cases we need to be especially skeptical and really look closely.”
At the same hearing, conservative Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a frequent critic of big tech companies, asked Khan about the competitive practices of big tech companies.
“I’ve been quite public about my concerns about concentrated power in the context of digital markets,” Khan responded. “On the competition side, we’re continuing to see a whole range of potential risks.” Too often, she said, companies can use success in one market to dominate related markets.”