Eyes on Foreign Relations Panel Ahead of Rex Tillerson Vote

Chairman Bob Corker says nominee will get to Senate floor no matter what

Rex Tillerson’s nomination for secretary of State will be voted on Monday afternoon in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rex Tillerson’s nomination for secretary of State will be voted on Monday afternoon in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 23, 2017 at 7:00am

Rex Tillerson will get to the floor (and likely be confirmed as secretary of State) whether Sen. Marco Rubio supports him or not.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker made that clear last week, telling CNN as early as last Tuesday of his intention to work through the procedural gears to get the former Exxon Mobil CEO a floor confirmation vote — even if there’s a deadlock in committee, which would most likely come about if Rubio, a Florida Republican, joined with a potentially united Democratic opposition. 

Corker has scheduled a markup on the nomination for 4:30 p.m. Monday, but Rubio’s office had no updates over the weekend.

On Sunday, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, who have been the most vocal GOP critics of efforts by Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, both said they would support Tillerson, despite concerns about his past working relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“We must strengthen our alliances and partnerships across the globe, and marshal them to defend our shared vision of world order. It is the American people, more than anyone else, who have benefited from this long tradition of U.S. global leadership,” the senators said in a statement. “The views that Mr. Tillerson has expressed, both privately and publicly during the confirmation process, give us confidence that he will be a champion for a strong and engaged role for America in the world.”

That announcement should all but assure Tillerson’s eventual confirmation, despite any issues raised by Democrats.

But there’s not going to be much time to work with when it comes to confirming the new president’s  nominees this week. Under an agreement reached late Friday, there will be a vote at around 6 p.m. Monday on the confirmation of Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo to be director of the CIA.

This workweek will be truncated, with GOP lawmakers from both sides of the Capitol departing Wednesday for the annual issues retreat, which is being held this year in Philadelphia. Freshly sworn-in President Donald Trump is expected to address the bicameral crowd on Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that he anticipated every one of Trump’s Cabinet-level nominees would be confirmed. And the Kentucky Republican also expressed optimism about the eventual Trump Supreme Court nominee.

“I’m confident we will get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed. I expect an outstanding nominee sometime soon. I think it’s noteworthy to look at how the Republican minority handled Bill Clinton in his first administration. Both of his first two nominees, Ginsberg and Breyer, no filibuster. Obama and his first term, two nominees, no filibuster. We think our nominee ought to be treated the same way,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.”

For his part, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told CNN on Sunday that Senate Democrats were prepared to fight on the Supreme Court pick.

“If the nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream, we absolutely would keep the seat open. I’m hopeful that maybe President Trump would nominate someone who is mainstream and who could get bipartisan support,” the New York Democrat said.

McConnell and Schumer will be among the Senate and House leaders due at the White House Monday for a meeting with Trump. The top two in each party from both chambers have been invited, a person familiar with the meeting plan said Sunday.