Tillerson nears senate vote for confirmation

Rex Tillerson, former chairmen and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobile Corp. and U.S. secretary of state nominee for President Donald Trump. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is nearing a final decision in the Senate on whether he will be the next secretary of state.

The Senate voted 56-43 Monday to limit debate on the nomination to 30 hours, likely setting up a floor vote in the Senate Wednesday.

With Republicans controlling the Senate by a 52-48 margin, Tillerson’s confirmation is believed to be assured now that Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have backed off their earlier opposition. A cloture vote, designed to prevent filibustering, only requires a simply majority of 51 votes.

But President Donald Trump’s pick for the country’s top diplomatic post remains controversial.  While Tillerson’s nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, every Democrat on the committee voted against him to leave a thin 11-10 margin – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis won the Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation by a 24-3 margin..

Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed misgivings about Tillerson’s past business dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at Exxon, and his refusal to publicly chastise Putin and other leaders accused of human rights abuses during a confirmation hearing earlier this month.

“I remain concerned that in the years to come, our country will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve,” Rubio wrote in a Facebook post last week. “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.”