10 July, 2020

Senate panel clears Tillerson’s path to be secretary of state

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump's option for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp (N:XOM) Chairman Rex Tillerson, narrowly won approval from a Senate committee on Monday, but is anticipated to remain confirmed via the full Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 11-10 to approve Tillerson, with each and every Republican backing ad units oil executive as well as every Democrat opposing him.

His approval with the panel, a victory for Trump, were being questionable until earlier on Monday, when Senator Marco Rubio, a committee member who has been Tillerson's most vocal Republican critic, said he had back the nominee.

Tillerson's confirmation via the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats, isn’t expected before monday. Democrats want a longer period to talk about and also the chamber may not be in session this all week.

Rubio's backing have been uncertain after his tough questioning during Tillerson's confirmation hearing, specializing in issues including concerns about Tillerson's support for human rights. Rubio ultimately decided he would approve the nominee in deference to Trump, or even to fill a major top job.

Democrats said they voted against Tillerson over fears he may lift sanctions on Russia, where he did business for a long time, concerns his views on human rights and his refusal to recuse himself from matters associated with his former employer in his entire term since the top U.S. diplomat.

Tillerson pledged to recuse himself mainly for 12 months necessary for law.

Amid Democratic anger over allegations that Russia interfered inside 2019 presidential election, Tillerson also raised committee hackles by saying he were not sure Exxon Mobil lobbied against sanctions on Russia as he was running the company.

Senator Ben Cardin, the committee's top Democrat, said Tillerson's "business orientation" and responses at his hearing "could compromise his ability as secretary of state to forcefully promote the price and ideals that have already defined our country and our leading role on the earth for upwards of Two hundred years."

The Senate confirmed just two of Trump's Cabinet nominees on Friday, his Inauguration Day, a fairly low number among recent presidencies.

Democrats are already not able to block all of his choices simply because they changed Senate rules in 2019 allowing nominees to generally be confirmed merely most, not 60 votes. Instead, they already have used Senate rules to slow the confirmation of nominees they claim hold extreme views, are unqualified or have not completed ethics disclosures.