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Rubio backs Tillerson, clearing way for likely confirmation as secretary of state

Rubio backs Tillerson, clearing way for likely confirmation as secretary of state

January 23, 2017

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that he’ll support President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, effectively clearing the way for the former ExxonMobil executive to win Senate confirmation and become the country’s top diplomat.

Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that is scheduled Monday afternoon to decide whether to endorse his nomination. The committee has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, which made Rubio, wary about Tillerson’s past business ties with Russia, a decisive vote.

Rubio, in a Facebook post, essentially said he’ll vote for Tillerson out of “deference” to the president. He argued that Tillerson was indeed qualified to fill the position but expressed lingering concerns about his ties to Russia.

“He has an impressive record of leadership and the proven ability to manage a large and complex organization,” Rubio wrote. “I was encouraged by a number of his answers throughout this process. He acknowledged that Russia conducted a campaign of active measures designed to undermine our elections. … However, his answers on a number of other important questions were troubling.”

If Tillerson gets enough committee votes, as expected, he will face a final vote from all 100 senators, which he also should pass.

Republicans have 52 senators and need only 51, a simple majority, to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

GOP Sens. John McCain, Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, had expressed concerns about Tillerson similar to those raised by Rubio.

However, the senators said Sunday that they would support Tillerson.

“Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests,” they said in a joint statement.