Senate panel approves Tillerson as US Secretary of State

Washington, Jan 24 (IANS) The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 11-10 on Monday to support former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and send the nomination to the full Senate for all-but-certain approval.

All 11 Republicans on the panel supported GOP President Donald Trump’s pick, while the 10 Democratic members voted against the oilman, EFE news reported.

Three committee Republicans who had expressed doubts about Tillerson — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio — ultimately rallied around the nominee.

McCain and Graham announced on Sunday that they would support confirmation, despite misgivings based on Tillerson’s friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his tenure running ExxonMobil, which has extensive investments in Russia.

On Monday, Rubio said he would give his vote to Tillerson.

“In making my decision on his nomination, I must balance these concerns (about Tillerson’s Russia ties) with his extensive experience and success in international commerce, and my belief that the President is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the cabinet,” the Florida senator said.

Rubio added, however, that he would extend the “same level of deference” in the case of other nominations for senior posts in the State Department.

While Democrats voiced policy differences with Tillerson, they also highlighted his failure to submit his tax returns to the committee.

On Friday, hours after Trump was inaugurated, the Senate confirmed his nominees for Secretary of Defence and Secretary of Homeland Security, retired Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly, respectively.

The Senate is expected to vote late Monday on the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA.