Top Dem comes out against Tillerson ahead of key vote

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinIt's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE (D-Md) is coming out against President Trump's choice for secretary of State, hours before a key Senate committee votes on Rex Tillerson's nomination.  

Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday that Tillerson's business ties and response to questions from lawmakers "could compromise" his ability to be the country's top diplomat. 
 
"Tillerson was unwilling to characterize Russia and Syria’s atrocities as war crimes, or Philippine President Duterte’s extrajudicial killings as gross human rights violations," Cardin said. "And he was not willing to dismiss with unqualified clarity a registry for any ethnic or religious group of Americans."
 
He added that he thinks the former Exxon Mobil CEO "misled" lawmakers about the company's lobbying on U.S. sanctions. Tillerson told the Foreign Relations Committee that "to [his] knowledge" the company never lobbied against placing financial penalties on Iran or Russia. 
 
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But Cardin argued Tillerson's comments are "inconsistent with the company's well-known, long-held position and activities." 
 
He added that he is "concerned" about Tillerson potentially urging Trump to lift current sanctions targeting Russia. 
 
"Russia attacked us through cyber warfare and has committed even greater atrocities in Ukraine, Syria, and Eastern Europe," he said. "They must be held accountable and our bipartisan legislation is an important tool to do so."
 
Cardin and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) introduced sanctions against Russia earlier this month because of Moscow's influence campaign in the U.S. presidential election, as well as ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. 
 
Cardin is also expected to introduce legislation this week with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill  Coons says White House could impose border fee for carbon-intensive products The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The omicron threat and Biden's plan to beat it MORE (D-N.Y.) that would require congressional approval before Trump removed any current Russia sanctions. 
 
Cardin's opposition to Tillerson comes hours before the Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination. 
 
 
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio blocks quick votes on stalemated defense bill Wisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last  Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall MORE (R-Fla.) is considered the swing vote on Tillerson's nomination, with Republicans holding a one-seat advantage on the committee. He has not announced how he will vote on Trump's pick. 
 
Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee, has indicated he wants Tillerson to get a full Senate vote even if he doesn't get a majority support within the committee. 
 
Tillerson will need 50 votes to clear the Senate. His nomination got a boost of momentum over the weekend with McCain and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.), two previously skeptical GOP senators, announcing they would support him.