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The Latest: GOP-led Senate to act on health care law

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., right, and the committee's ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., stand with Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, prior to the start of Tillerson's confirmation hearing before the committee. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., right, and the committee's ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., stand with Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, prior to the start of Tillerson's confirmation hearing before the committee. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks with reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks with reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa listens at left, as the committee's ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. questions Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. during Sessions confirmation hearing before the copmmittee, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa listens at left, as the committee's ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. questions Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. during Sessions confirmation hearing before the copmmittee, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this Jan. 5, 2017, photo, a painting by David Pulphus hangs in a hallway displaying paintings by high school students selected by their member of congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has removed a painting that showed a pig in a police uniform, one of hundreds of artworks on display at the Capitol and sponsored by a member of Congress. Joe Kasper, a spokesman forHunter, says the lawmaker unscrewed the artwork from the display and returned it to the office of Missouri Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)
In this Jan. 5, 2017, photo, a painting by David Pulphus hangs in a hallway displaying paintings by high school students selected by their member of congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has removed a painting that showed a pig in a police uniform, one of hundreds of artworks on display at the Capitol and sponsored by a member of Congress. Joe Kasper, a spokesman forHunter, says the lawmaker unscrewed the artwork from the display and returned it to the office of Missouri Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)
In this Jan. 10, 2017, photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. For decades, congressional Republicans have pushed to slash the budget and reduce the size of the federal government, especially during the eight years Democratic President Barack Obama was in office. Now that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is poised to take charge, deficits and debt just don't seem to matter to the GOP. The first significant piece of legislation under unified Republican rule is a budget measure that, as a prerequisite for a speedy repeal of the Affordable Care Act, endorses deficits adding almost $10 trillion to the debt over the coming decade. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Jan. 10, 2017, photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. For decades, congressional Republicans have pushed to slash the budget and reduce the size of the federal government, especially during the eight years Democratic President Barack Obama was in office. Now that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is poised to take charge, deficits and debt just don't seem to matter to the GOP. The first significant piece of legislation under unified Republican rule is a budget measure that, as a prerequisite for a speedy repeal of the Affordable Care Act, endorses deficits adding almost $10 trillion to the debt over the coming decade. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 2:10 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on activities in Congress (all times EST):

2:00 p.m.

The Republican-led Senate is poised to take a step toward dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law despite anxiety among some GOP senators that their party still hasn't come up with an alternative.

A procedural budget vote slated for late Wednesday or early Thursday would trigger committee action to write repeal legislation that could come to a vote next month. A full replacement would follow sometime after that if Republicans can come up with one.

The nearly seven-year-old law extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, prevented insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and steered millions to the states for the Medicaid health program for the poor.

___

1:39 p.m.

Democrat Cory Booker says his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions has at times exhibited hostility toward civil rights.

Booker is taking the highly unusual step of testifying against President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general on the second day of Sessions' confirmation hearings.

The New Jersey senator said an attorney general "must bring hope and healing to the country and this demands a more courageous effort that Sen. Sessions demonstrates."

Booker added the Alabama Republican's opposition to reform of the criminal justice system, among other issues.

Sessions was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 for a judgeship amid accusations that he called a black attorney "boy" -- which he denied -- and the NAACP and ACLU "un-American."

Sessions called those accusations "damnably false."

___

1:14 p.m.

A Republican congressman has asked the architect of the Capitol to review whether a high school student's painting of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, should be displayed on Capitol Hill.

The painting has the image of a pig in a police uniform aiming a gun at a protester. It hangs among hundreds of other works of art chosen in last year's Congressional Arts Competition.

In a letter on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state says it's not his desire to censor an individual's right to freedom of speech and expression.

But Reichert says the painting is "in clear violation" of the competition's official rules, which state that exhibits "depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalist, or gruesome nature are not allowed."

The painting has set off a battle in Congress, with several Republicans taking it down and Missouri Democrat William Lacy Clay of Missouri putting it back up. Clay maintains that the paint represents free speech. Republicans call it offensive to law enforcement.

___

12:58 p.m.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says she doesn't know what has been reported or corroborated regarding reports that Russia obtained compromising information about President-elect Donald Trump, but she's long been curious about what information Russia had.

Pelosi says "I've always wondered what did Russia have on Donald Trump that Donald Trump would question whether we should support our sanctions that we had in Europe."

A U.S. official says top intelligence officials told Trump about an unsubstantiated report on him last week. A dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump's inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts. It also contains unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump, among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

Pelosi was speaking on a jobs bill when asked about Trump.

___

12:16 p.m.

Rex Tillerson says he has no knowledge about whether President-elect Donald Trump or members of his family has any financial interests with Russia.

Trump's pick for secretary of state was responding to questions from Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was Hillary Clinton's running mate against Trump in the 2016 election.

Kaine asked to know if Tillerson would be at a disadvantage in negotiations if there another country or individual had information about Trump that Tillerson wasn't aware of.

Tillerson says: "Not to my knowledge."

___

11:57 a.m.

Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of state says if China doesn't properly enforce U.N. sanctions on North Korea, the U.S. should consider actions to compel them to comply.

Rex Tillerson was responding to a question at his Senate confirmation hearing about the idea of secondary U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies that deal with North Korea.

Tillerson said a "new approach" toward China is necessary to make clear the U.S. expected more from Beijing related to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

China is a traditional ally of North Korea and accounts for more than 90 percent of trade with the isolated nation.

U.N. sanctions were tightened in September to restrict imports of North Korean coal by China.

___

11:42 a.m.

Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state says climate change does exist and the risk is great enough to warrant action.

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson didn't say what action.

Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday the increase in greenhouse gases is "having an effect." But he says the "ability to predict that effect is very limited."

The president elect has sent mixed signals on climate change. He has brushed it off as a Chinese hoax and also said "nobody really knows."

Tillerson says he came to his personal position on climate change as a scientist. He says Trump has invited his thoughts on the contentious subject. "I feel free to express those views," he says.

Tillerson also says he would recuse himself as secretary of state from matters that involve Exxon Mobil.

___

11:08 a.m.

Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of state says he's not had a conversation with the president-elect about U.S. policy toward Russia.

Tillerson's statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came despite the intense focus members of Congress have had on Russia over allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

Tillerson says he favors keeping the current sanctions against Russia in place until the Trump administration takes office.

"I would leave things in the status quo so we can convey it could go either way," Tillerson says.

Tillerson also says Russia's targeted bombing in the Syrian city of Aleppo "is not acceptable behavior" but he's declining to flatly say that Moscow is guilty of war crimes. He says he'll wait until he sees detailed intelligence before making that decision.

___

11:04 a.m.

Transportation secretary-designate Elaine Chao says the Trump administration wants to unleash the potential of private investors to boost the national transportation networks that underpin the economy.

She told senators at her confirmation hearing that economic gains are being "jeopardized" by aging infrastructure, rising traffic fatalities, growing congestion, and a failure to keep pace with emerging technologies.

Chao, a former labor secretary and deputy transportation secretary, is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell stole a line from a predecessor, former Senate Majority leader Robert Dole, while introducing Chao: "I regret I have only one wife to give for my country." Dole's wife, Elizabeth, is a former transportation and labor secretary.

Chao quipped back: "I will be working to 'lock in' the majority leader's support tonight over dinner."

___

11:00 a.m.

Protesters briefly interrupted Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearing for secretary of state.

One woman shouted, "Please don't put Exxon in charge of the State Department. Protect our children and grandchildren."

She was one of two women holding "Reject Rex" signs who stood up, one after the other, in the cavernous chamber where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding the hearing. The protesters were quickly removed by U.S. Capitol Police.

Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, faces hours of questions Wednesday about President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy plans.

___

10:47 a.m.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is resting at home after having a pacemaker installed this week.

Feinstein, 83, said in a statement Wednesday that the procedure went smoothly and was undertaken out of caution.

The implantation was performed on Tuesday after Feinstein participated in questioning Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions in a hearing on his nomination to be attorney general.

Feinstein says she'll return to a full schedule soon.

___

10:45 a.m.

Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, says sanctions can be a "powerful tool" but they disrupt American businesses.

The CEO of ExxonMobil opposed sanctions levied on Moscow following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The penalties cost the energy giant hundreds of millions of dollars.

He also has spoken of his general opposition to sanctions.

On Wednesday, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "The fact is, sanctions, in order to be implemented, impact American business."

Tillerson also said he never personally lobbied against sanctions and neither, to his knowledge, did his company.

___

10:38 a.m.

Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, says it's a "fair assumption" Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about Moscow's meddling in America's 2016 presidential election.

Tillerson is telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he's not privy to the detailed intelligence about Russia's hacking. But he says he read the declassified report released last week about Russia's interference.

Tillerson says in response to a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, he would not describe Putin as a "war criminal."

Rubio says Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and bombing in Aleppo should not make it hard to say that Putin is responsible for war crimes.

Rubio has said he has "serious concerns" about Tillerson as America's top diplomat.

___

10:30 a.m.

An immigrant brought to the United States as a child is testifying on the second day of Sen. Jeff Sessions's confirmation hearing for attorney general.

The Alabama senator has opposed President Barack Obama's program to allow young immigrants who came to the United States as children to go through background checks in exchange for a promise they would be safe from deportation.

Oscar Vazquez earned a degree in mechanical engineering and served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

Sessions opposed the comprehensive immigration bill that would have given a path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

Testifying on behalf of Sessions, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey called Sessions "principled, intelligent, honest and thorough."

___

10:25 a.m.

Rex Tillerson says Russia had no legal right to annex Crimea in 2014.

President-elect Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state is telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would have advised a more robust response than the Obama administration delivered.

The Exxon Mobil CEO is telling the panel that the U.S. should have told Russia that the land grab "stops right here." He adds that "If Russia acts with force, that requires a proportional show of force that there will be no more taking of territory."

Tillerson opposed the sanctions the U.S. levied on Moscow following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The penalties cost the energy giant hundreds of millions of dollars.

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