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FTC at full strength as Senate approves McSweeny

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the nomination of Justice Department official Terrell McSweeny to be the third Democratic commissioner on the five-member Federal Trade Commission.

McSweeny, nominated in June, is a former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and is now chief counsel for competition policy at the Justice Department's antitrust division.

The vote was 95-1 for McSweeny with David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, voting against her nomination.

McSweeny's confirmation will give Democrats a majority on the FTC, which works with the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce antitrust law and investigates allegations of deceptive advertising, among other responsibilities.

The commission is chaired by Edith Ramirez, a Democrat and a law school classmate of President Barack Obama. The third Democrat is Julie Brill. Rounding out the group are Republicans Maureen Ohlhausen and Joshua Wright.

"We are delighted that the Senate has confirmed Terrell McSweeny to serve as an FTC Commissioner. Terrell is a dedicated public servant, and we look forward to working with her on the many important issues facing the Commission," Ramirez said in a statement.

The FTC is currently considering several mergers, including a plan by food distributor Sysco Corp to merge with rival U.S. Foods Inc., and a proposed combination of grocery chains Kroger and Harris Teeter.

Before McSweeny's confirmation there had been concern that some merger decisions could end in a 2-2 tie. In the case of a deadlocked vote by commissioners, the FTC takes no action.

The agency is also pursuing the issue of "patent trolls," companies which assemble portfolios of weak patents and then demand licensing fees from large numbers of companies for alleged infringement.

It also works on online privacy issues, which can pit companies against consumers, and pursues companies accused of deceiving customers.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Diane Bartz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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