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Ahead of hearings, Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson meet with key U.S. senators

Key U.S. senators appeared more comfortable Wednesday with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry being the next U.S. energy secretary than they were with former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson being the next U.S. secretary of state.

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson and Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a day of meeting with the elected officials who hold his political future in their hands, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry left the Capitol with one thing in mind.

"I gotta go study my lessons for the night," Perry was overheard saying. "Preparation. Preparation. Preparation."

Perry met with several key GOP senators on Wednesday ahead of upcoming confirmation hearings to serve as secretary of energy in the Trump administration.

But the hearings, where liberal Democrats such as U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts could try to pummel him in front of a national audience, will be a chance for Perry to reintroduce himself to the American public. Perry, who is still haunted by his infamous "oops" debate moment in 2011, openly conceded during his 2015 presidential run that the flub was a product of not being prepared — and that he had learned from the experience.

His meetings at the Capitol included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and a fellow Texan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. Perry also met with at least three members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee: U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

By all early reads, Perry's confirmation does not appear to be in jeopardy, despite drawing criticism from some groups over his environmental record. It's less clear with another Texan, former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, who also made the rounds of Capitol Hill ahead of his own confirmation hearing for the position of Secretary of State.

Tillerson's dealings with Russia as an oil executive have emerged as a potential stumbling block.

On Wednesday, he met with one of the most pivotal players on that front, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. 

Asked Wednesday ahead of the meeting by reporters whether he could support Tillerson's nomination, McCain said, "Sure. There's also a realistic scenario that pigs fly," according to the Houston Chronicle.

Tillerson also met Wednesday with McConnell and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat.

"I have not made a decision about how I will vote," Coons said, according to ABC News

Tillerson's hearing is scheduled for Jan. 11.

Disclosure: Exxon Mobil Corp. has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Congress Politics John Cornyn Rick Perry