WASHINGTON Jan 2 A new, Republican-controlled
U.S. Congress convenes on Tuesday eager to repeal major portions
of President Barack Obama's healthcare law and roll back
environmental and financial industry regulations, but could
quickly become embroiled in fights over President-elect Donald
Trump's Cabinet choices.
Despite his promise to unite a deeply divided country, Trump
will be sworn in on Jan. 20 leading a Republican Party that
early on will push legislation through Congress without
significant - or any - Democratic support.
According to a Gallup poll released on Monday, Trump will
take office with less than half of Americans confident in his
ability to handle an international crisis, use military force
wisely or prevent major ethics lapses in his administration.
Leading Democrats on Monday warned of a fierce fight over
Obamacare, which is expected to have 13.8 million people
enrolled in the program that aims to provide health insurance to
economically disadvantaged people and to expand coverage for
"We're going to fight as hard as ever to protect the ACA
(Affordable Care Act), said Representative Steny Hoyer, the
House of Representatives' second-ranking Democrat.
Speaking to reporters, Hoyer and House Democratic leader
Nancy Pelosi said they would launch an effort to mobilize
grassroots support for Obamacare by explaining how repeal would
create a ripple effect hurting a majority of Americans.
For years, Republicans have hammered away at Obamacare,
insisting it was unworkable and was hampering job growth. With
control of Congress and the White House, they will be in a
position to enact a repeal bill.
The U.S. Senate will have more than legislation on its hands
in the new year.
It has the daunting task of debating and voting on the
scores of appointees Trump already has announced to head his
Cabinet departments and for other top jobs in the new
It also is expected to receive a Supreme Court nomination
early on from Trump, triggering a likely confirmation war.
Prominent Senator John McCain has warned that Rex Tillerson,
Trump's choice for secretary of state, will have to explain his
relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom McCain has
called a "thug and a murderer."
Tillerson, who spent much his career at Exxon Mobil Corp
, has been involved in business dealings in Russia and
opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into
Meanwhile, Democrats are expected to strongly oppose
Republican Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, in part because
of his opposition to immigration and past remarks that showed
And given Trump's campaign promise to "drain the swamp" in
Washington of special interests, especially Wall Street
influence, Democrats are also poised to attack the nomination of
Steven Mnuchin to be treasury secretary.
Mnuchin is a successful private equity investor and hedge
fund manager who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc
While the Senate will be tied down for weeks debating these
and other controversial nominees, Trump is expected to win
approval of most, if not all.
Besides Obamacare repeal, Republicans also want to curtail
or kill regulations aimed at further controlling industrial
emissions that contribute to climate change and banking industry
reforms enacted in the wake of the near-collapse of Wall Street
several years ago.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who waged bitter
battles against Obama over the past eight years, has warned his
fellow Republicans against overreaching following their Nov. 8
In an interview with Kentucky Educational Television on Dec.
19, McConnell said, "It's certainly no time for hubris" and
there is "not much I can do (legislatively) with Republicans
only in the U.S. Senate."
While he repeatedly called for removing Obamacare "root and
branch," McConnell said in the interview that his top priorities
for the new Congress were dealing with "massive overregulation"
that he said has been a brake on the U.S. economy and
accomplishing tax code changes to stop companies from moving
(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)