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William Kovacic and Thomas Rosch, nominees for the two open seats on the Federal Trade Commission, could win a required vote from the Senate Commerce Committee as soon as Thursday. “We’re going to clear these fast as we can,” panel chairman Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said after a hearing on the nominations. Approval by the full Senate would still be needed before the nominees can take their posts. Stevens said he also would urge Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to call a final vote on their postings as soon as possible. Confirmation of Kovacic and Rosch would return the FTC to its full five-member complement. The panel has had one empty seat since the June 30 departure of Orson Swindle. Commissioner Thomas Leary’s term also has expired, although he has said he will stay until Rosch, his replacement, is sworn in. The only possible obstacle to their clearing the Commerce Committee would be reservations from Democratic panel members, who have been taking a strong stand against energy price increases. At a Nov. 9 hearing on gasoline price hikes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, several Commerce Committee members, including California Democrat Barbara Boxer and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, were displeased when FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras insisted that the FTC should not be empowered to limit gasoline prices. During the hearing, Majoras said regulators would have a hard time differentiating between price gouging amidst oil shortages and legitimate price increases necessary to discourage panic buying and lines at the pump. When Commerce Committee Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, asked for their thoughts on giving the FTC authority to limit oil prices, Kovacic and Rosch implied they agreed with Majoras. Kovacic said the ability to cap gasoline prices “would be a significant change in the general approach to competition policy.” “There’s a difference between challenging acts or practices that lead to higher prices on one hand and directly trying to cap prices,” Rosch said. “If higher prices are the result of collusion, the American people have every right to expect an investigation and challenge of those practices.” As for the panel’s chairman, the Alaska Republican said he was satisfied with their answers to the energy questions. Both men “proved they are capable and careful lawyers. It means they will think before they decide.” Added Stevens: “They are the most qualified guys I’ve ever seen” for the FTC. He praised both men for their previous experience at the FTC, explaining that a commissioner’s seat “is no place for on-the-job training.” Kovacic is currently a law professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington. He served as FTC general counsel from 2001 to 2004 and was an attorney adviser at the agency from 1979 to 1983. Kovacic also was a legislative assistant to Sen. Philip Hart, one of the authors of the 1976 Hart-Scott-Rodino Act that empowered the FTC to review pending mergers and block deals that harmed competition. Rosch is currently a partner at Latham & Watkins. He served as director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection from 1973 to 1975 and in 1989 was a member of the Special Committee to Study the Role of the Federal Trade Commission. Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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