Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) has announced on his Facebook page that he will support the nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Senator Rubio had been the last Republican holdout after Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced their support for Trump’s pick over the weekend.
Many senators were concerned about Tillerson’s lack of diplomatic experience as well as his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. As head of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had negotiated oil deals with Russia and was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by the Russian president in 2013.
In his statement, Rubio said that Tillerson allayed many of his fears during the confirmation process. “He acknowledged that Russia conducted a campaign of active measures designed to undermine our elections,” Rubio wrote. “He stated that Russia’s taking of Crimea was illegal and illegitimate. He affirmed that our NATO ‘Article V commitment is inviolable.’ He endorsed the Magnitsky Act. He accurately characterized the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a Russian invasion, and he supports providing defensive weapons to Ukraine.” Tillerson differs with President Trump on several of these issues.
Rubio was also critical of Tillerson’s reluctance to be tough on Russia. “Despite his extensive experience in Russia and his personal relationship with many of its leaders, he claimed he did not have sufficient information to determine whether Putin and his cronies were responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists, and political opponents. He indicated he would support sanctions on Putin for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect U.S. businesses operating in Russia. While he stated that the ‘status quo’ should be maintained for now on sanctions put in place following Putin’s illegal taking of Crimea, he was unwilling to firmly commit to maintaining them so long as Russia continues to occupy Crimea and eastern Ukraine.”
Nevertheless, Rubio wrote, “I must balance these concerns with his extensive experience and success in international commerce, and my belief that the president is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the cabinet.”
The support of Rubio, Graham and McCain means that Tillerson is certain to be confirmed as Secretary of State. With 48 votes (including two independents), Senate Democrats cannot block the nomination without Republican help. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) eliminated the filibuster on most presidential nominations in 2013.
Originally published on The Resurgent