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Tim Wu and Lina Khan. Photos: Getty Images

An influx of tech antitrust hardliners in the Biden administration signals a new toughness on tech from the Democrats.

Why it matters: Tech companies that grew unfettered by regulation during the Obama administration will now be under scrutiny from advocates that have made a name for themselves by targeting the behemoths' size and power.

Lina Khan, well-known in antitrust circles for her ideas about stopping platforms like Amazon from competing directly with sellers, is being vetted as a nominee for a slot as Democratic FTC commissioner, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The news was first reported by Politico.

  • Khan is a former public interest advocate who did a stint at the FTC working for former Democratic commissioner Rohit Chopra, and served as an adviser on the House Judiciary Committee during its year-long investigation of Big Tech firms.
  • Khan represents a newer school of antitrust thought, where companies' size, market dominance and treatment of competitors is considered anticompetitive behavior that regulators need to reel in — rather than judging monopoly power primarily by harm to consumers.

Tim Wu, known for coining the term "net neutrality," was named a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

  • His role at the White House will encompass competition policy in other industries as well, according to a New York Times report.
  • Wu is a Columbia University Professor and author of "The Curse of Bigness" about the dangers of Big Tech's growing power.
  • He previously worked for the New York Attorney General, and also held advisor roles at the FTC and for the White House's National Economic Council during the Obama administration.

Of note: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its confirmation hearing for civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta, nominated for Associate Attorney General, on Tuesday.

  • If confirmed, Gupta, who's been critical of Facebook, would oversee the antitrust and civil rights divisions at the Justice Department. However, Biden has not yet nominated a leader for the antitrust division.

What they're saying: "The president has been clear — on the campaign, and, probably, more recently — that he stands up to the abuse of power, and that includes the abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.

Reality check: The roles Khan and Wu will hold within in the administration are not final decision makers, so while they will be influential in shaping the debate, they won't have the last word on outcomes.

What to watch: Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division and the permanent chair of the FTC, which launched cases against Google and Facebook last year, will give more clarity on the administration's stance on antitrust enforcement.

Go deeper

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."