Senate Committee votes to confirm Exxon’s Tillerson as secretary of state

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson(R) before the start of a meeting on Capitol Hill January 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / ZACH GIBSONZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson(R)  in Washington, DC in January. (Photo: AFP PHOTO / ZACH GIBSONZACH GIBSON)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee , on a party line vote, recommended that former Exxon Mobil chief executive be confirmed as the next secretary of  state. The 11-10 vote on Monday sends the nomination to the full Senate, where Tillerson is all assured of confirmation.

The vote has become a  formality when Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,  a member of the Foreign Relations Committte, said he would back off his opposition to the former Exxon Mobil CEO,  following  other leading GOP critics,  Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,  who both said Sunday they planned to vote yes when his nomination goes before the full Senate – giving  President Donald Trump the necessary votes for confirmation. All  has expressed reservations about Tillerson’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin

In a Facebook post, Rubio said he still had concerns about Tillerson’s business relationships in Russia,  but would not hold up his confirmation.

“Given the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy,” he wrote.

Rubio clashed with the former Exxon Mobil chief executive during a hearing earlier this month over Russia’s bombing of civilians in Syria in support of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, the characterization of Putin as a war criminal, and Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. As CEO of one of the world’s biggest oil companies, Tillerson did business in Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other nations criticized for human rights records.

Rubio said Tillerson’s unwillingness to make judgments on Putin and others, could lead those around the world to think, “America cares are about democracy and freedom as long as it’s not being violated by someone they can use for something else. We need a secretary of state that will fight for these principles.”

Democrats on the foreign relations committee are expected to vote strongly against Tillerson.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Ranking Democrat on the committee, released a statement Monday morning  saying he would not vote for Tillerson.

“After long and careful consideration, I believe Mr. Tillerson’s demonstrated business orientation and his responses to questions during the confirmation hearing could compromise his ability as secretary of state to forcefully promote the values and ideals that have defined our country and our leading role in the world for more than 200 years,” he said in a statement.