Fifth FTC commissioner could face tough confirmation slog

 The FTC, which handles competition enforcement, consumer protection and privacy issues, needs a majority vote to take action against a company or to adopt new regulations.

"It might take quite a while to get someone confirmed," acknowledged Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group.

One former FTC lawyer suggested that the White House could pair a Democratic FTC nominee with a Republican nominee from another agency. 

"The question is ultimately, can the White House barter other appointments?" the lawyer said. "It's all about horse trading." 

Potential candidates for the fifth seat include Leslie Overton, a deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, and Howard Shelanski, the director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics, according to people who follow the FTC closely. 

Obama picked Commissioner Edith Ramirez in February to succeed Jon Leibowitz as chairman of the agency. Sitting commissioners do not need Senate confirmation to take over as chairman, but the move left a vacancy for a third Democratic commissioner. 

In her first speech as chairwoman, Ramirez denied that the lack of a Democratic majority would prevent her from advancing her agenda.

"I don't see it impeding the very important work of the agency," she said. "We are a bipartisan commission. ... The work that we do is consensus-based."