The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state by a vote of 11-10 - falling along party lines (with Democrats dissenting). As Bloomberg notes, this vote clears the way for the full Senate to confirm one of President Donald Trump’s most critical cabinet choices.
Before the vote on Monday, Democrats also said they were concerned about Tillerson’s statement that he would recuse himself from matters related to Exxon during his first year as secretary and rely on guidance from the State Department’s ethics office after that.
“In the end, I just had too many concerns and questions about the kind of leadership he would provide at the state department to feel comfortable voting for him,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.
The 11-10 vote came hours after Senator Marco Rubio, who had been the lone Republican withholding his support, said he would back the nomination of the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive officer as the nation’s top diplomat despite concerns over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal in his nomination hearing to condemn human rights abuses in Russia and the Philippines. As The Hill reports,
“I concluded that it would not be good for our country to unnecessarily delay or created unwarranted political controversy over this particular nomination,” Rubio told the panel at the Monday meeting.
“My concern was that Mr. Tillerson would be an advocate for and would pursue a foreign policy of dealmaking at the expense of traditional alliances and at the expense of the defense of human rights and of democracy,” he said, which he weigh against positive answers from Tillerson on issues like Cuba and supporting armament for Ukraine against Russia.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chairman, said that Tillerson had “no doubt that Rex Tillerson is well-qualified.”
“He has managed the world’s eighth largest company by revenue, with over 75,000 employees. Diplomacy has been a critical component of his positions in the past, and he has shown himself to be an exceptionally able and successful negotiator who has maintained deep relationships around the world,” Corker said.
Two key GOP senators who have been concerned about Russia and Putin, Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), also announced in recent days that they would support Tillerson.
Tillerson will now face a vote in the full Senate, where he is nearly certain to get the majority vote that he needs to become the United States’ top diplomat.