Technology

Senate panel advances Biden's pick to lead DOJ antitrust unit

Jonathan Kanter, President Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Justice's (DOJ) antitrust division, advanced with broad bipartisan support at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday. 

The panel advanced Kanter through a voice vote, though Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked to be recorded as a vote against Kanter's nomination. 

If approved by a final Senate vote, Kanter will lead the DOJ division at a time when the federal government is cracking down on the market power of tech giants, including suing Google over allegations of illegally maintaining a monopoly over online searches.

Google has pushed back on the allegations stemming from the case, which was first brought under the Trump administration. 

Cornyn said he shares some of the concerns Kanter has raised about the tech industry, but he is concerned with what he described as Kanter's approach to "use antitrust tools as a hammer to achieve political or social ends." 

But other Republicans said they were backing Kanter despite some disagreements because of the focus on the tech industry. 

"I've got my own concerns about Mr. Kanter. I can't say that I agree with him on everything - in fact we probably disagree on more than we agree on - but I do appreciate his understanding that the hyperconcentration and consolidation of the tech sector is a big problem, and I think he believes in antitrust. I think he wants to do something about it," said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair of the antitrust subcommittee, noted that Makan Delrahim, the former DOJ antitrust chief under the Trump administration, and former assistant attorney generals of both parties urged Kanter's confirmation to the position. 

"There may be differences on certain answers that Mr. Kanter said. ... Overall, he is where this committee is in terms of how we talk about this," Klobuchar said. 

Along with Kanter, Biden has appointed tech critics to key positions during his first year in office. He appointed Lina Khan as chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission and Tim Wu to a White House advisory role.

Outbrain