The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted Anthem’s request for an expedited appeal of the ruling to block the insurer’s merger with Cigna.

Oral arguments in the case are set to begin on March 24. The appellate court order further stated that no requests for extensions would be considered. 

Anthem contends that the appeal had to be expedited to prevent Cigna from terminating the agreement and so that the deal can be completed before the deadline, which Anthem extended from Jan. 31 to April 30. Cigna has disputed the extended deadline and wants to end the agreement based on the original deadline. Anthem also stated that the federal judge who blocked the merger “made serious errors of law, fact, and logic.”

Indianapolis-based Anthem could be banking on the Trump administration to help push the merger forward, a report by the International Business Times (IBT) suggests. The insurer gave $100,000 to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, IBT reported, noting that Trump has since appointed “an Anthem lobbyist to a top legal post in the White House—a job that could position him to take over the Justice Department [DOJ]’s antitrust unit that may ultimately decide the fate of the merger.” 

That former lobbyist is Makan Delrahim, who currently serves as deputy White House counsel. Delrahim was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s antitrust division under George W. Bush and held top staff roles on the Senate Judiciary Committee before that. Bloomberg News and Politico both reported recently that Delrahim could be a contender to run the DOJ’s antitrust division again—which would seem to be a conflict of interest since he has lobbied on behalf of an entity involved in litigation originating from that very division. Anthem lawyers recently told a Delaware judge that a “resolution with a new DOJ” could make it possible for the merger to proceed, IBT reported.

Citing data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics, IBT also reported that Anthem, its subsidiaries, its employees and employees of Anthem’s lobbying firms donated more than $428,000 to the Indiana Republican Party during Mike Pence’s runs for Congress and governor. Data from PoliticalMoneyLine show that these donors also contributed over $4 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) during Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns, according to IBT, and the RGA provided Pence with financial support. Pence, who served on the RGA’s executive committee and assisted with the organization’s fundraising, supported the Anthem-Cigna merger while he was governor of Indiana.

Anthem and its lobbying firms also contributed to Jeff Sessions’ Senate campaign committees and to the National Republican Senatorial Committee during Sessions’ runs for election in 2002, 2008 and 2014, IBT added. Sessions, who was a longtime senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was recently appointed U.S. Attorney General. 

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