U.S. Senate committee approves Tillerson for secretary of state

Republican holdouts on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put aside several reservations about former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson's nomination and voted to send it to the full Senate for a vote.
By Stephen Feller  |  Jan. 24, 2017 at 1:40 AM
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Jan. 24 (UPI) -- After speculation Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would vote against approving his nomination, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was backed by all the Republicans a U.S. Senate committee on Monday, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted along party lines, 11 to 10, to confirm Tillerson, whose nomination was controversial because of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other potential conflicts from his decades-long career with the oil company.

Sens. Lindsay Graham and John McCain had earlier suggested they too would oppose Tillerson's nomination but decided to vote in his favor, leaving Rubio as the lone holdout.

Rubio, however, had a 90-minute private meeting with Tillerson last week and went over the answers to more than 100 written questions he'd lobbed at the nominee, coming away satisfied with what he had to say.

"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 democracy," Rubio told the committee on Monday.

In a later statement, Rubio said he decided to vote for Tillerson in order to "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."

Rubio said, however, he would aim much more scrutiny toward lower level appointments to the State Department and may not grant the same deference for those individuals.

Democrats on the committee also raised concerns about his opposition to sanctions against Russia imposed at various points during the Obama Administration and whether he would fight violations of human rights in other countries, but without a Republican crossing the aisle they could not stop approval.

The full Senate is expected to vote on Tillerson's nomination to head the State Department next week.

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