Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have announced that they will vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. With these two votes, Tilleson’s confirmation becomes a near certainty.
Among Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio appears to be the only holdout. The Florida man tore into Tillerson at the confirmation hearing but has not said how he will vote. Even if Rubio votes “no,” Tillerson should receive 51 votes.
With confirmation virtually assured, Rubio can now vote against Tillerson’s nomination without sinking it, if that’s what he wants to do. A “no” vote certainly won’t endear Rubio to President Trump, but if Tillerson is confirmed, the vote might not make Rubio a pariah.
Then again, it might. Without Rubio’s support, Tillerson is unlikely to get a favorable vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will still be confirmed, but the unfavorable committee vote would carry some symbolism.
McCain says he based his decision in part on a desire to defer to the new president and in part based on private conversations with Tillerson:
He talked to me a lot about his views with Russia, a lot about the events that have taken place, about. . .what his duties were as a head of one of the world’s largest corporations. Listen, this wasn’t an easy call, but I also believe that when there’s doubt, the incoming president gets the benefit of doubt, and that’s the way I’ve treated every president.
In my view, voting for Tilleson should be a pretty easy call. His posture towards Russia as head of Exxon was intended to serve the interests of the company. His committee testimony shows that, within the confines of what the president wants, his posture towards Russia in the entirely different role of Secretary of State will likely be quite different. And any Secretary of State must operate within the confines of what the president wants.
Insofar as Russia is concerned, the main difference between Tillerson and some other nominee is that Tillerson understands how Putin thinks and how he negotiates. This seems like a plus to me.
UPDATE by JOHN: Marco Rubio announced today that he will support Tillerson, too. That means he is in, which is great. I think Tillerson could be a superb Secretary of State. In terms of competence alone, the upgrade over John Kerry and Hillary Clinton is immense.