WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nomination hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 to consider the presidential nominations of Bill Nelson to be National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administrator, Lina Khan to be a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, and Leslie Kiernan to be General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
- The Honorable Bill Nelson, to be National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administrator
- Ms. Lina Khan, to be Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission
- Ms. Leslie Kiernan, to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
10:00 a.m. EDT
Full Committee (Hybrid)
This hearing will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chair Maria Cantwell
Chair Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Senate Commerce Committee Hearing entitled, “Nominations Hearing.”
Witnesses: The Honorable Bill Nelson, to be National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administrator,
Ms. Lina Khan, to be Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission
Ms. Leslie Kiernan, to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
April 21, 2021
Cantwell: The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will come to order. I want to welcome all our witnesses joining us today. Today is a very important hearing date, we are going to be joined by, obviously welcoming back our colleague, and former colleagues. Both Senator Nelson in his position to be nominated as NASA Director and our former colleague, Senator Hutchison who I think is going to join us virtually. So, I can't think of two more active members, ranking members in the past on this committee, so we certainly welcome them. And certainly we have our former Commerce Secretary who's going to be joining us virtually. So, it's a very big Commerce day for those of us in the Commerce family and long standing members of this committee to see our colleagues and people we've worked with on so many policy issues. And obviously a lot of enthusiasm by members who want to join in in support these nominations, so we'll be joined by a variety of senators here and Senator Rubio, who is with us already.
So, I want to say welcome to the families, to Grace and Nan, and to all of those who are here to discuss today's nominees. We're covering everything from the digital and natural, to the commercial worlds, and into space today, so a very broad topic area. And we are going to be talking a lot about innovation. First, I'm pleased to consider the nomination of a dear friend, Bill Nelson, to be NASA Administrator. I welcome you, as I said, your wife Grace and daughter Nan, you will be formally introduced by Senator Rubio and our former colleague Senator and Ambassador Hutchison. But first I'd like to say a few words.
Senator Nelson has been a leader in space policy and has been an integral driver of NASA strategic direction for decades. His commitment to public service and passion for space policy has been long known and makes him an incredible choice for this important role. He has a well respected legacy on space policy, and that has, I think, today led to an endorsement by a litany of individuals, including former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Senator Rubio, Senator Hutchison, and many others. His reputation as a tireless advocate for the space program is well deserved. And at this moment NASA needs a great advocate that we all can be competent in. Today NASA is at a critical juncture on the Artemis program, we are working towards an eventual crewed mission to Mars, where no nation has gone before, and right now we need certainty, it's paramount for the agency. And we need steady thoughtful leadership, and undoubtedly I think you will fit that role well. I have to say I was surprised last week about the Human Landing System Development contract but I'll ask questions about that, and I have questions about how we reduce risk management in general at NASA. Also important in innovation, and a leader, I believe, are important things on the endless technological possibilities that we see at NASA. I have to say as a senator from a state that has now been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of space,” I welcome you to come and visit the Pacific Northwest. And I also would say, while you're there you can look at the various aeronautics issues that are part of NASA's mission as well. Aeronautic research and development is a very important aspect of the NASA mission. So, I look forward to hearing your comments, Senator Nelson, on all of those issues. And I hope that we will get a chance to work together on these important missions.
Next, we will hear from Lina Khan, nominated to be the Commissioner for the Federal Trade Commission. I understand your husband Shah Ali and your parents Tariq and Ulya are here, very much welcome you, if you're out there, thank you. Oh there you are, you look too young parents, okay. She will be fully introduced by Senator Blumenthal, but first I want to briefly speak about Ms. Khan's, dedication and her qualifications in this important role that she will be nominated to fill. Lina Khan is Associate Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Her scholarship has received several awards and has been published by Yale Law Review, Harvard Law Review, Columbia Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review. Previously, Ms. Kahn served as an adviser to the FTC Commissioner Chopra, and counsel to the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. As Commissioner of the FTC, Ms. Kahn will serve as the nation's, one of the nation's leading antitrust officials and consumer advocates. One of the key questions where the leadership of the FTC is, I believe, how do you fulfill that mission that the FTC has: to protect consumers in the information age, a very big challenge. We know that Section Five of the FTC on unfair and deceptive practices for competition, and in an information age how much that's been challenged. So, we look forward to exactly how you can help us keep on track on the support mission. In 2011, John Perry Barlow observed as he watched Google and Facebook establish dominance, “if you're not paying for it, you're the product.” I think we all have to absorb exactly what that has meant for all of us over the last decade. I believe in the promise of the internet and the information age, but I also believe that we need a policeman, or in this case a policewoman, on the beat. We need to make sure these markets function and function correctly, and that is what a major role of the FTC is, obviously in partnership with DOJ. As an American legal scholar, Lina Khan has been following anti-monopoly research for years, and she has become one of the leading legal experts on these issues. So I think it would do all of us a great deal of good to have her on the FTC. So, I'm grateful for your willingness to serve and the important work that you've done in the past.
Finally, I'm pleased to consider the nomination of Leslie Kiernan, who President Biden nominated to be General Counsel for the Department of Commerce. She's accompanied by her husband Paul Kiernan, welcome, and former Secretary of Commerce, as I mentioned earlier Penny Pritzker will be providing a formal introduction for Ms. Kiernan. But I'd like to also say a few words about her experience. Ms Kiernan has decades of experience representing and providing counsel for big public and private entities, both big and small. During the Obama administration, she served as White House Deputy Counsel to the President, where she advised on a wide range of compliance risk management policy oversight issues. In addition to our government service, she has worked for 20 years as a litigation partner at a national law firm and serves on the board of the Children's National Medical Center, a nationally recognized Children's Hospital here in D.C.. So, her confirmation comes at a time when the Department of Commerce is undertaking a very big task as it relates to our competitive avenues with the President's Build Back Better plan, and with the economic challenges of an information age, in a global economy, responding to a COVID pandemic. So, all of those things are big cross currents, so whether it's providing COVID-19 relief, including commercial and charter and tribal fishermen issues as one of the things you'd have to deal with, or administering and bolstering the new broadband program, the Minority Development Agency, or many of the other roles that Commerce might be given in the next several weeks, this will be a very big challenge. But simply put, we need the role of the U.S. Department of Commerce in our economic recovery to be as robust as possible and I'm confident your nomination will help us do that. As General Counsel, your most important job, I believe, though, will be to protect the scientific integrity of our agencies, to keep politics out of science and decision making, and to make sure that we continue to make progress on good science. Science is what holds all of us together, when we have to make difficult decisions. So, you have much experience here, decades of interpreting these laws and analysis, so I look forward to those issues and I just might note, the NOAA oversight of the Commerce Department, there are a lot of science and legal issues. And so we look forward to your input and oversight of that. So, with that I'll turn to my colleague Senator Wicker, who's joining us remotely today.
Ranking Member Roger Wicker
Ranking Member Roger Wicker
Thank you very much Senator Cantwell for holding this important hearing on the nominations of our friend, former Senator Bill Nelson, to serve as NASA Administrator, Professor Lina [Leena] Khan to be a Commissioner of the FTC, and Ms. Leslie Kiernan [KEER (rhymes with “ear”) – nuhn] to be General Counsel at the Department of Commerce. I want to welcome each of them to today’s hearing, but especially Senator Nelson, who previously served with distinction as Ranking Member of this committee.
We are also delighted to have former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison joining us remotely to introduce Senator Nelson. Senators Nelson and Hutchison both set a great example for us by leading the effort to pass bipartisan NASA authorization legislation – a tradition that I hope our committee will continue this Congress. We are also glad to have our colleague Senator Marco Rubio to provide another introduction for Senator Nelson, since the two of them represented the State of Florida together in the Senate for several years. Finally, it is good to have my friend former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joining us virtually to introduce Ms. Kiernan.
My constituents and I care deeply about making sure NASA has strong and cable leadership. As you know Stennis Space Center is located in my home state of Mississippi. Senator Nelson has extensive experience in setting the goals and policy priorities for NASA, beginning with his tenure as Chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – a post he held for six years. During that time, he personally flew on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle, participating in scientific experiments and other work while in orbit. Senator Nelson also served as both the Chair and Ranking Member of this committee’s Space and Science Subcommittee – and as I previously noted, he was also Ranking Member of the full committee. Through these leadership positions, he was instrumental in shepherding the passage of numerous NASA authorization bills, and I know he will be an important voice as we work toward passage of the next one.
Professor Lina Khan has been nominated to fill an important vacancy as a Commissioner at the FTC. Yesterday, we held an oversight hearing with the four current commissioners of the FTC. We discussed important topics, including the commission’s role in reigning in Big Tech, the future of its Section 13(b) authority to obtain monetary redress, and the role the FTC has to play in enforcing college athlete name, image, and likeness rules and other sports issues. I look forward to hearing Ms. Khan’s views on these and other topics today.
Ms. Leslie Kiernan is the President’s nominee to serve as General Counsel at the Department of Commerce. She has a long record of service as an attorney in government and private practice, her experience will be a strong asset for Secretary Raimondo and the department as a whole. The Commerce Department has a broad portfolio and oversees numerous sectors of our economy – including fisheries, weather forecasting, and federal agency allocation and use of spectrum. We need an accomplished General Counsel at the department who can provide sound legal advice and direction in all of these areas.
I appreciate that all of today’s nominees are willing to serve in these posts, and I am eager to hear their testimony and responses. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. Leslie KiernanNominee to be General CounselU.S. Department of Commerce
Ms. Lina KhanNominee to be CommissionerFederal Trade Commission
The Honorable Bill NelsonNominee to be AdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration