Rubio to vote for Tillerson

Rubio to vote for Tillerson
© Greg Nash

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio defends '3 point kick' analogy: 'You think everyone who follows politics knows what a field goal is?' Lawmakers to introduce bipartisan bill targeting China's treatment of Muslims Rubio cites Bible verse amid recount criticisms: ‘You cannot count what is not there’ MORE (R-Fla.) announced Monday morning that he would support President TrumpDonald John TrumpAvenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Kasich: Wouldn’t want presidential run to ‘diminish my voice’ MORE'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 CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Washington Post publisher: Trump officials, Saudis asking world to 'take their word' on Khashoggi murder Corker: 'A price needs to be paid' for Khashoggi's murder 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 Olin GrahamGraham: Trump’s new AG has ‘concerns’ about criminal justice bill Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Senators introduce Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (S.C.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain would have said ‘enough’ to acrimony in midterms, says Cindy McCain Trump nominates Jim Gilmore for ambassador post Arizona New Members 2019 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 Trump" 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.