Senate Panel OKs Jonathan Kanter to Lead Justice Dept. Antitrust Unit

A Senate committee on Thursday approved a critic of the tech giants to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, sending his nomination to the full Senate for a final vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted for Jonathan Kanter’s nomination to lead the division without taking a count of how each lawmaker voted. But one Republican senator, John Cornyn of Texas, asked to be marked down as voting against the nomination.

Mr. Kanter said during his confirmation hearing that he supported “vigorous antitrust enforcement in the technology area.” As a lawyer in private practice, Mr. Kanter has represented critics of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple — helping them make the antitrust case against the tech giants.

If confirmed by the full Senate, as is widely expected, he will join other critics of Silicon Valley in key antitrust positions. Lina Khan, a young legal scholar who wrote a popular critique of Amazon, leads the Federal Trade Commission. Another scholar who argues for greater antitrust enforcement against major companies, Tim Wu, holds an economic policy role at the White House.

Several lawmakers praised Mr. Kanter on Thursday, saying he was the right person to tackle problems with corporate concentration throughout the economy.

“We believe in allowing the markets to work,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. “And the markets aren’t really working really well right now for some people.’

Mr. Cornyn, who voted against the nomination, said he shared Mr. Kanter’s concerns about the tech industry but worried he would more broadly “use antitrust tools as a hammer to achieve political or social ends.”

Critics of Mr. Kanter have also questioned whether he could end up prosecuting cases he encouraged as a lawyer for competitors of the tech giants. The Justice Department has already sued Google, arguing it illegally maintained its monopoly over online search. And it is investigating whether Apple has violated antitrust laws.

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