Sen. Marco Rubio has announced his support for President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, saying in a statement that former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has “an impressive record of leadership and the proven ability to manage a large and complex organization.”
Rubio’s support for Tillerson was an open question after the Republican senator, who was a presidential candidate himself in the 2016 election, repeatedly grilled him during his Senate confirmation hearing. Rubio’s questioning was pointed, and he focused in particular on Tillerson’s views of Russia.
But in his statement, Rubio said he woulddefer=”defer”to Trump on his pick for secretary of state.
“I believe the president is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the cabinet. I also believe given the uncertainty surrounding the future direction of our foreign policy that a higher degree of scrutiny is justified in evaluating whoever is nominated to serve as secretary of state,” Rubio said in the statement, seemingly citing his interrogation of Tillerson during his Senate hearing.
He continued: “I have no doubts about Mr. Tillerson’s qualifications and patriotism. He has an impressive record of leadership and the proven ability to manage a large and complex organization.”
Rubio also cited Tillerson’s acknowledgement that Russia conducted a cyber campaign to sway the US election, his characterization of Russia’s actions in Ukraine as an “invasion,” and his stated commitment to ensuring the US honors its NATO obligations.
But Rubio took issue with Tillerson’s refusal to agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin had committed war crimes and acknowledge human rights violations in some other countries, including China and Saudi Arabia. Still, he seems unwilling to attempt to block Tillerson’s 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,” Rubio said in the statement. “Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate.”
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who had also previously expressed concerns about Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state, also recently announced they would support his confirmation.
“Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for US interests,” they wrote in a joint statement this weekend. “The views that Mr. Tillerson has expressed, both privately and publicly during the confirmation process, give us confidence that he will be a champion for a strong and engaged role for America in the world.”
After Trump announced his pick for secretary of state, some senators expressed concerns about Tillerson’s relationship with Russia, a country he made deals with while he was working at Exxon. But it now appears that Tillerson has the votes he needs to be confirmed by the Senate.