The Latest: Experts urge law change to allow Mattis to serve


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on activities in Congress: (All times EST):

10:10 a.m.

National security experts are urging senators to pass legislation granting an exception to the law to allow retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis to serve as Donald Trump’s defense secretary.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, says Mattis would act as a stabilizing force, “preventing wildly stupid, dangerous or illegal things from happening” on Trump’s watch. Cohen has been a harsh critic of the president-elect.

Kathleen Hicks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says she supports Mattis’ nomination because of his “expert grasp” of key security issues and his commitment to civilian control of the military.

Mattis has been out of uniform for fewer than seven years, the minimum required by law for a former service member to serve as defense secretary. His nomination will require new legislation to override the prohibition.

Mattis, 66, retired in 2013 as a four-star general.

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9:10 a.m.

Congressional aides say Senate confirmation hearings for the candidates Donald Trump picked to run the CIA and Education Department are being delayed.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold its hearing for Mike Pompeo, the Republican congressman from Kansas tapped to lead the CIA, on Thursday instead of Wednesday, when three other confirmation hearings are slated to occur.

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for the Education Department, has been moved from Wednesday to next week. Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have not yet received key information about DeVos, including financial disclosure statements.

The shifts followed discussions between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s top Democrat.

Democrats had urged GOP leaders to slow their aggressive hearing schedule, which includes Trump’s picks for the nation’s top diplomat, lead law enforcement officer and head of homeland security, among others.

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7:00 a.m.

A Missouri congressman will return to its Capitol Hill location a painting that has offended some lawmakers.

Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay says protests of the artwork are a “manufactured controversy.” He plans to argue Tuesday that freedom of expression, even in artwork some find offensive, is essential to liberty.

The painting shows a pig in a police uniform aiming a gun at a protester. GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter removed it from an area reserved for winners of a nationwide art competition.

In prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press, Clay says there are other works of art at the Capitol that he and constituents find offensive, citing a portrait of the late Sen. James Eastland, a staunch segregationist.

3:25 a.m.

Republican anxiety is mounting over voting to unravel the health care law without having an alternative in hand, fanned by words of encouragement from Donald Trump to a GOP senator who wants to simultaneously repeal and replace the statute.

GOP leaders have made dismantling President Barack Obama’s treasured health care overhaul their premier 2017 priority. But even as the Republican-run Senate moves toward passing a budget that would make it harder for Democrats to protect Obama’s law later, at least six GOP senators have expressed qualms about repeal without having a substitute — something Republicans have failed for years to produce.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander says in an interview that lawmakers “should start immediately to repeal, reform and replace Obamacare, and it shouldn’t be finally repealed until we have a replacement ready.”

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