Rubio to vote for Tillerson

Rubio to vote for Tillerson
© Greg Nash

Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioMexican politicians have a new piñata: Donald Trump Bush ethics lawyer: Congress must tell Trump not to fire Mueller The private alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program  MORE (R-Fla.) announced Monday morning that he would support President Trump's pick to lead the State Department, removing the last significant stumbling block to the nomination.

Rubio, who aggressively questioned secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during his hearing earlier this month, had been the lone Republican holdout on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"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 a statement on his Facebook page. 

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"Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate."

Because of the committee's structure, a defection by even one Republican senator would have denied Tillerson the majority vote he needed to easily move to a floor vote. However, as Rubio weighed his decision, Committee chairman Bob CorkerBob CorkerRepublicans get agreement on Russia, North Korea sanctions Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters that he'd still be able to bring Tillerson up for a floor vote regardless of whether he wins the majority in the committee. 

Now that Rubio joins Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamBare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate Live coverage: Senate debates repealing ObamaCare Graham: Trump 'absolutely' showing weakness on Sessions MORE (S.C.) and John McCainJohn McCainCanada responds to transgender ban: All are welcome to join Canadian forces Dems don’t want to help GOP improve repeal bill GOP senator: Trump transgender ban ‘deserves more than a Twitter conversation’ MORE (Ariz.) in support, Tillerson is expected to be confirmed once the full Senate holds its vote.

The Foreign Relations panel plans to hold its vote Monday to move Tillerson toward confirmation on the chamber floor.

Tillerson came into his nomination hearing facing a slew of questions over his ties to Russia as the former CEO of Exxon Mobil. But while virtually all of the Democrats on the committee pushed Tillerson during his hearing, Rubio's assertive questioning stood out among his Republican peers.

The Florida senator criticized him for refusing to label China and Saudi Arabia as human rights violators, refusing to say Russia committed war crimes in Syria and waffling over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has killed dissidents and journalists.

Those questions, along with his public wavering about his vote, drove speculation that Rubio was laying the groundwork to vote against Tillerson and potentially jeopardize the nomination.

The Democratic National Committee chided Rubio for "rolling over for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpScaramucci says he will contact FBI, Justice Dept. over leaked financial disclosure Dem rep to introduce measure requiring White House to disclose pardons Lawmakers push to toughen foreign lobbying rules MORE" in a pointed statement just minutes after Trump's former GOP primary foe announced his decision.

“By ignoring his serious reservations about Tillerson’s connections to Vladimir Putin, Marco Rubio is not only rolling over for Donald Trump, he’s earning the nickname Trump gave him: Little Marco," DNC senior adviser Zac Petkanas said.  

Rubio pointed to those disagreements in his statement, calling Tillerson’s “answers on a number of important questions ... troubling." He added that he remains "concerned" about the country's future foreign policy direction "in the years to come," warning against "a foreign policy that too often sets aside our values and our historic alliances in pursuit of flawed geopolitical deals."  

He said, however, that his concerns were outweighed by Tillerson's "extensive experience and success in international commerce" along with Rubio’s desire to give Trump "deference" in filling his inner circle.

But Rubio added that he would not give Trump's State Department picks "the same level of deference" in the future.