The Reagan administration pulled back its planned nomination of Patricia Bailey to be acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission yesterday after learning of a sharp attack she had made on the White House efforts to cut the agency's budget.
Instead, the administration has decided to appoint the FTCs other Republican member, David Clanton, to the post, despite strong support for Bailey from Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.).
Key legislators, including Baker and Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, were notified of the administration's intention to name Bailey on Thursday. Baker was told of the change of position yesterday afternoon.
But after administration officials learned of the speech, made Wednesday at the Antitrust Law Committee of the D.C. Bar Association, Baker and other members of Congress ere told that Clanton would get the White House nod.
"If she had waited 24 hours and hadn't blasted Stockman, she would have been okay," said one high-level congressional source.
Bailey is an avowed supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment -- which Reagan opposes -- and the wife of one-time Baker political strategist Douglas Bailey. Douglas Bailey and Baker are said to be close personal friends. Bailey was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Informed sources have suggested that Bailey's appointment, despite the congressional support, had been hotly debated within the White House in light of her political views. "They were looking for an excuse" not to go through with the selection, one source said yesterday.
But Clanton, in an interview yesterday, said that "in general terms" he agreed with the content of Bailey's speech and called it "balanced and appropriate."
Noting that an immediate task facing the commission is "achieving budget economies," Clanton said that such cuts "should not be accomplished by sacrificing" the commission's antitrust role.
The plan, proposed to the agency by OMB Director David Stockman, calls for a cut of $6.36 million this year in the budget of the FTC's Bureau of Competition followed by a further cut of $16.55 million in 1982 from the Carter administration's proposed budget. The plan would eliminate the FTC antitrust role.
Most FTC observers have said that the administration would move to name an acting chairman to replace Michael Pertschuk. Since there are no vacancies on the five-member commission and no openings will be available until Sept. 25 -- when the term of Democrat Paul Rand Dixon expires -- barring a resignation, there cannot be a Republican majority on the FTC until that time.
In her speech, Bailey said the FTC budget cuts and their effect on national antitrust policy "raises a policy issue of the gravest national importance."