Sen. Marco Rubio Has Reservations, Will Back Secretary of State Pick Rex Tillerson

Sen. Marco Rubio and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson seem to have reached an accord about Tillerson becoming Secretary of State.
Sen. Marco Rubio and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson seem to have reached an accord about Tillerson becoming Secretary of State.
Screengrab from C-SPAN

After expressing plenty of concerns about Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil who is President Donald Trump's choice for Secretary of State, it seems that Sen. Marco Rubio is now more or less willing to back Tillerson, according to a Facebook post Monday morning.

Initially, Rubio and a number of other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, were open about their doubts as to whether Tillerson should even be nominated for the job.

Tillerson — a native Texan and longtime conservative who did not support Trump in the election — doesn't have any actual diplomatic experience, but his selection as the head of the U.S. State Department makes a certain kind of sense, since running Exxon is a lot like running a country. However, questions have emerged over whether it's really possible for the longtime head of one of the largest energy companies on Earth to put aside that company's interests in favor of the wider concerns of the country.

Tillerson's close ties to Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin in particular that gave some key figures in Congress pause.

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Rubio was particularly incensed, pushing back hard when Tillerson was officially named as Trump's pick for Secretary of State. He asked pointed questions and expressed a wealth of doubts about Tillerson during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's confirmation hearings last week.

Rubio went into the hearings just this side of determined to not vote to support Tillerson's nomination. That was a big deal because the Democrats on the committee only need one Republican defection to reject Tillerson. Even if this were to happen it wouldn't have nixed Tillerson's nomination entirely — the vote would have been kicked to the full Senate floor where it most likely would have passed — but it would have been an embarrassing initial failure for Trump's administration, to say the least.

Luckily for Tillerson, this is no longer going to be an issue. Rubio announced via Facebook that he has decided to support Tillerson's candidacy.

"I have no doubts about Mr. Tillerson’s qualifications and patriotism," Rubio states. "He has an impressive record of leadership and the proven ability to manage a large and complex organization. What I focused on from the beginning is whether as secretary of state he will make the defense of liberty, democracy and human rights a priority."

Rubio didn't give Tillerson a free pass though, noting that Tillerson's answers on a number of questions were "troubling". Rubio said he is concerned Tillerson didn't condemn Russia's violations of the Minsk II agreement, publicly acknowledge that Putin has committed war crimes or of having dissidents, journalists and opponents killed. Rubio also pointed out that Tillerson paid lip service to the idea of sanctions against Russia for stepping over the line on issues like invading Crimea, but at the same time Tillerson refused to say that he was solidly for upholding sanctions as long as the Russians continue to occupy Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine.

During the hearings Tillerson also dodged talking about human rights violations in China, the Phillipines and Saudi Arabia, Rubio pointed out. Tillerson claimed that he needed more information before he could discuss these issues. Rubio wasn't having it on this one either, stating, "Identifying certain actions as human rights violations is an integral part of the secretary of state’s job, but Mr. Tillerson implied that speaking out on human rights would hinder his ability to do his job as the nation’s chief diplomat."

Ultimately, Rubio decided to support Tillerson's nomination since Tillerson has experience in international commerce and is Trump's choice, a decision that almost certainly guarantees there won't be any GOP opposition to Tillerson getting the gig. But Rubio still does so with plenty of reservations. And he makes it clear that any other appointees will not get the same amount of deference to the president's choice that Rubio is giving Tillerson.

The people chosen to fill other key roles in the State Department are not entitled to this level of deference, Rubio said.


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