President Donald Trump’s antitrust pick has been waiting for confirmation for more than five months, and there’s no indication he’ll get to set up his office in the Justice Department anytime soon.
Makan Delrahim has faced some bumps on the confirmation road. First, it was missing paperwork that delayed his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Then the committee’s vote was held over for one week, a customary procedure for first-time nominees. He eventually was approved 19-1.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) then wanted a meeting with him to discuss potential political interference in the proposed tie up of AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc.
Senate Democrats were also slow to allow action on any of Trump’s nominees until the health care debate ended and they then agreed to confirm a large block of nominees in early August. But the bad luck persisted. Delrahim missed that boat, too.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reportedly is holding up Delrahim’s nomination over concerns about his views on corporate consolidation. That kicked the vote past the August recess until after Labor Day. Now, lawmakers have been otherwise occupied tying up loose ends on government funding and hurricane aid.
Adding to the complications, the progressive group CREDO this week will deliver to Senate offices a petition with more than 100,000 signatures that encourages lawmakers to block Delrahim’s confirmation.
Because Delrahim has so far received significant bipartisan support, Warren excepted, it would be surprising if the petition caused a stir. But its existence is the latest twist in Delrahim’s unusually difficult confirmation process for a nomination that typically doesn’t draw much public outcry.
Delrahim, widely considered a mainstream Republican pick by the antitrust bar and most members of Congress, was nominated at a time when frustrations over corporate consolidation are growing rapidly. Liberal-leaning think tanks are vocal about the problems they see with market power. Democratic leaders include antitrust overhaul as part of their agenda for 2018 mid-term elections. Members of both parties have expressed concern about White House interference in merger investigations.
Suddenly, antitrust is hot.
That kind of opposition is indicative of how antitrust has moved into the political spotlight. It also foreshadows criticism Delrahim could get from the left once he gets to work, if and when that ever happens.
Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen will speak at the George Washington School of Law today and Georgetown Law School on Sept. 12. Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch will also appear at the Georgetown event. On Sept. 14, Finch will give the keynote address at a Fordham School of Law conference.
Ohlhausen Sept. 12 will testify at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on occupational licensing.
We may find out the latest development in Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Rite Aid’s long saga to make a deal. The companies’ HSR deadline is Sept. 18, so the FTC could release its verdict any day now.
“You would expect it to be pretty robust and business friendly administration. But frankly, there’s a lot of heads still missing in key positions in the government and what it really looks like going forward is not clear,” said David Gibbons, a partner at Hogan Lovells LLC, at a recent roundtable in New York. “The defining thing in the [U.S.] around the M&A environment is uncertainty.”
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