The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told reporters just off the Senate floor that Senate Democrats know they do not have the votes to stop the confirmation of Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, but they insist on stretching out the process as a continuation of the 2016 election cycle.
“Let’s face it, our committee has never been in a place where it operated as a proxy for the election and it is unfortunate that some of that is occurring,” said Sen. Robert P. Corker Jr. (R.-Tenn.), who has led the committee since the GOP took over the Senate after the 2014 midterms. “It’s not in keeping with the standards we have had in the Senate.”
Corker said looking back at the confirmations of Sen. John F. Kerry (D.-Mass.) in 2013 and Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D.-N.Y.) in 2009, it was clear that the Republicans put aside partisan grievances to make sure that President Barack Obama had the top diplomat he wanted as soon as possible.
“Someone was telling me that if this continues–and it looks like it is going to–he will be the longest since Dulles,” he said. John Foster Dulles was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first secretary of state.
Corker said he was happy that the committee voted Monday 11-to-10 to approve Tillerson‘s confirmation, which goes against his overriding goal of running the foreign relations committee based on consensus. The panel’s vote sets up Tillerson for a vote on the Senate floor. The tight margin on the committee reflects the 52-to-48 Republican majority in the whole chamber.
“If you know its going to be 52-to-48–it’s running the clock out,” he said.
“If you know what the outcome is going to be, at this point you are just being obstinate,” he said.
“Typically, people want the secretary of state to be confirmed fairly soon, it’s kind of an important decision, he’s fourth in line for the president–especially when people have concerns and all they constantly express is concerns about the president’s foreign policy, you’d think you’d want his secretary of state there advising, going ahead and organizing the office,” he said.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 23, 2017
There was a chance that Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) would vote against Tillerson given his treatment of the former ExxonMobil CEO during the confirmation hearing.
Rubio was hostile to Tillerson—cutting him off, correcting him, lecturing him and at times scolding him–all related to the oil executive’s unwillingness to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man who awarded Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship medal after Exxon Mobil began developing oil resources in that country.
“I remain concerned that in the years to come, our country will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve, and will pursue a foreign policy that too often sets aside our values and our historic alliances in pursuit of flawed geopolitical deals,” Rubio said.
“But in making my decision on his nomination, I must balance these concerns 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, in committee and in the full Senate,” he said.
Corker said he was not surprised that Rubio came around, but he would not speak for the Floridian.
The Senate vote on Tillerson’s confirmation has not yet been set.