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Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Richard Leon is the U.S. District Court judge last in this space for approving AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, over the objections of U.S. antitrust regulators. Now he's threatening to scuttle another mega-deal that not only received regulatory approval, but which actually closed last week: CVS Health's $69 billion purchase of health insurer Aetna.

Details: Leon last week suggested that the government was treating him as a "rubber stamp," and yesterday again refused to sign off on the deal. Per yesterday's order: "At this stage, I am less convinced of the sufficiency of the government’s negotiated remedy than the government is."

  • He wants both the government and companies to file briefs by next Friday (Dec. 14), arguing why he shouldn't suspend the merger until he approves the agreement reached between those parties (which included a since-completed requirement that Aetna sell its Medicare Part D plan to WellCare).

Yes, Leon could effectively order the egg to be unscrambled, assuming he disagrees with the incoming legal briefs. But it would be extremely complicated, as the companies already have begun integrating — something he recently warned should be slowed down — and his actual ruling might not ultimately come until the middle of next year.

  • A more likely scenario is that Leon would demand a partial unscrambling, such as new divestitures. This also is what would be expected if DOJ wins its longshot appeal in the AT&T-Time Warner case.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

2 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.