McCain, Graham to support Tillerson for secretary of state

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, testifies during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 11. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Sunday they would support Tillerson’s nomination. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 22 (UPI) — Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had expressed concerns about Rex Tillerson‘s nomination as secretary of state, announced Sunday they will vote to confirm him.

McCain and Graham released a joint statement saying they will back the former ExxonMobil chief executive.

“After careful consideration, and much discussion with Mr. Tillerson, we have decided to support his nomination to be Secretary of State,” the statement reads. “Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests.”

They explained “now more than ever, with America’s friends growing more discouraged and our enemies growing more emboldened, we need a secretary of state who recognizes that our nation cannot succeed in the world by itself. We must strengthen our alliances and partnerships across the globe, and marshal them to defend our shared vision of world order.”

They said they are satisfied Tillerson’s views “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.”

Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage over Democrats in the Senate. McCain and Graham were seen as two Republicans who might defect.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Tillerson on Monday afternoon.

The committee includes Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who seemed dissatisfied with Tillerson’s answers to his questions about Russia and other areas of the world. He has not said how he will vote.

For him to receive the committee OK, Tillerson needs the backing of all Republicans if every Democrat rejects him. The full Senate will still have the ability to vote on his nomination, however.

“Listen, this wasn’t an easy call. But I also believe that when there’s doubt, the president, the incoming president, gets the benefit of the doubt, and that’s the way I’ve treated every president that I’ve had the obligation to vote for or against as a member of the United States Senate,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” explaining his decision.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Sunday predicted the Senate would confirm all of Donald Trump‘s cabinet picks.

“I believe we’ll be able to confirm the president’s entire cabinet,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday,” “There’s great enthusiasm.”

On Friday, the Senate confirmed retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Department of Defense and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to be in charge of the Department of Homeland Security.


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