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Monday January 20th, 2020 9:07AM

The Latest: Rex Tillerson said to support Paris climate pact

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress (all times EST):

1:35 p.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Rex Tillerson told him he supports the Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Ben Cardin of Maryland spoke with reporters Wednesday outside his Senate office after a one-hour meeting with Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped for secretary of state.

Cardin says Tillerson's backing of the international pact to combat climate change "was encouraging to hear." He says Tillerson stressed his background in science and told Cardin "that he is a believer in science."

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord. But since being elected, he's shifted that stance and now says he is "studying" the agreement.

Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing is tentatively scheduled for next week.

__

1:20 p.m.

The Senate has taken its first vote on the way to repealing so-called Obamacare.

The 51-48 procedural tally broke mostly along party lines and officially begins debate on a special budget measure that is a precursor to a follow-up bill to repeal Obama's health care law. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul opposed the measure since it endorses large budget deficits.

Once Wednesday's legislation passes both House and Senate, Republicans controlling Congress could pass the follow-up measure without the threat of a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

The vote came after both Vice President-elect Mike Pence and President Barack Obama trekked to Capitol Hill to rally their respective sides for the looming fight. The preliminary measure is on track to pass both House and Senate next week, but details on the binding repeal bill are still being worked out.

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1:10 p.m.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is sending a warning to President-elect Donald Trump: Democrats will oppose a Supreme Court pick "with everything we have" if a nominee isn't what they consider mainstream.

Schumer — in an interview — explains his concern. He says "with the hard right running the show," the likelihood of the nominee "being mainstream is decreasing every day."

The New Yorker made the comments one day after saying on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" that Democrats will "absolutely" do their best to keep the vacant Supreme Court open if Trump doesn't nominate someone Democrats support.

The seat has already been open for 11 months since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked consideration of President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

___

12:30 p.m.

House Republicans say they will begin introducing legislation on Jan. 30 to repeal a series of Obama administration regulations, with the early focus on environmental rules.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says GOP leaders haven't yet picked which agency regulation Congress will seek to overturn first. He said he expects swift action on invalidating a rule designed to reduce methane emissions and another designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal mining on the nation's streams.

McCarthy says the two rules "limit our energy production."

Republicans will also seek to repeal regulations implementing an education reform bill that some state officials have complained erodes local decision-making.

Before the House goes after specific agency rules, McCarthy says it will tackle the regulatory process itself to give Congress more control.

___

11:13 a.m.

"Look out for the American people."

Those were President Barack Obama's parting words after a lengthy closed-door meeting with House and Senate Democrats about preserving his health care law.

Republicans are pushing ahead on repealing the law while they work on a replacement.

Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly says Obama's message was to "make sure that every American who loses his or her health care knows that the Republican repeal vote did that."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warns that repeal would throw the insurance marketplace into chaos.

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10:30 a.m.

Democrats say President Barack Obama is making the case for keeping his health care law.

Obama made a rare trip to the Capitol on Wednesday to meet with House and Senate Democrats.

New York Rep. Louise Slaughter says Obama focused on how well the law is working, and on how many letters he's gotten in support of it.

She calls it "a very nostalgic speech."

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin says Obama's message is that the individual parts of the law are popular, and that repealing it would affect all Americans.

"We need to personalize this," Cardin says — echoing the president.

Republicans promise to move quickly to repeal the law, but they've failed to coalesce around a replacement.

___

10 a.m.

Once he's sworn in, President-elect Donald Trump will move swiftly to undo Democratic President Barack Obama's policies.

That's the message from Vice President-elect Mike Pence to House Republicans at a Capitol Hill strategy session Wednesday.

On Jan. 20, Trump will use his power through executive orders to target the health care law and other policies.

New York Rep. Chris Collins and Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner specifically mentioned health care, though it's unclear what changes could be made through executive order on the nearly 7-year-old law.

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold says Pence told the GOP: "What can be done with a pen and a phone can be undone with a pen and a phone."

___

9:40 a.m.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a closed-door briefing Thursday for members to learn more about the Obama administration's response to suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election and harassment of U.S. diplomats.

Also, U.S. intelligence officials, including national intelligence director James Clapper, are set to testify Thursday in an open session by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

President Barack Obama struck back at Moscow last week with a set of punishments targeting Russia's leading spy agencies that the U.S. has accused of meddling in the presidential campaign. The U.S. also kicked out 35 Russian diplomats in response to what the White House says has been Russia's harassment of American envoys.

___

9:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama is at the Capitol to give congressional Democrats advice on how to combat the Republican drive to dismantle his health care overhaul.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is meeting with GOP lawmakers to discuss the best way to send Obama's cherished law to its graveyard and replace it with — well, something.

The separate strategy sessions come on the second day of the new GOP-led Congress.

In 16 days, Republican Donald Trump replaces Obama at the White House, putting the party's longtime goal of annulling much of the 2010 health care overhaul within reach.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News
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