U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) says that despite some concerns about Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson's close ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, he will support the ex-oil executive when the Senate votes on his nomination.
Rubio said in a Facebook statement on January 23 that he was troubled that Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, refused to agree with Rubio that Putin had committed war crimes through Russian military attacks on civilians in Syria.
The support of Rubio and of Senators John McCain (Republican-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) one day earlier gives Tillerson the green light to be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate in a vote scheduled for January 23.
McCain and Graham said in a joint statement that although they "still have concerns" about Tillerson's previous dealings with Russia and Putin, they "believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests."
McCain and Graham said Tillerson convinced them he was deserving of his support following some private meetings "and much discussion."
"Despite [Tillerson's] extensive experience in Russia and his personal relationship with many of its leaders, he claimed he did not have sufficient information to determine whether Putin and his cronies were responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists, and political opponents," Rubio added as one of his concerns about Tillerson.
Rubio clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing earlier this month when the nominee refused to label Putin a "war criminal" or condemn reported human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in strong terms.
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland), the ranking opposition member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement saying he would oppose Tillerson.
"Tillerson's demonstrated business orientation and his responses to questions during the confirmation hearing could compromise his ability as secretary of state to promote the values and ideals that have defined our country," Cardin wrote.
A Senate vote is expected the same day on Congressman Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas) to become director of the CIA.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and Politico