Tillerson’s Secretary of State Confirmation All But Assured

WASHINGTON (CN) — In a virtual confirmation, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday sent ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state to the full Senate by an 11-10 party-line vote.

The vote came less than two weeks after the Foreign Relations Committee grilled Tillerson for hours in a contentious confirmation hearing.

With Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain approving Tillerson in the committee vote, his confirmation is all but assured.

Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate and nominations require only a simple majority vote.

Rubio of Florida and McCain of Arizona, two of the toughest Russia hawks in the Senate, had reservations about Tillerson, whose close business relationships with the country include receipt of an award from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rubio said on his Facebook page shortly before the vote that he would vote for Tillerson despite some statements the CEO made in his confirmation hearing that Rubio found “troubling.”

Rubio said that even though Tillerson was unwilling to say Putin had committed war crimes, or would “firmly commit” to keeping in place sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, he thought leaving the secretary of state job open would undermine national security.

“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.

Rubio was the last bulwark against Tillerson to fall, as McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a joint statement Sunday that they would support him.

“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 U.S. interests,” the senators said in a joint statement Sunday.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and was once in the running for the secretary of state job himself, said the vote before the full Senate should come quickly now that its result seems inevitable.

“If you know what the outcome is going to be, at this point you’re just being obstinate,” Corker told reporters Monday night.