Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham both announced on Sunday that they will vote for Rex Tillerson as Donald Trump’s secretary of state.
McCain and Graham, who are usually in lockstep on foreign policy issues, announced their decisions in two separate TV interviews and in a joint statement.
They said that they still have “concerns” about Tillerson’s close relationship with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. But after several meetings with Tillerson, they say they believe the former ExxonMobil CEO will be “an effective advocate for U.S. interests.”
“I will be voting in favor of [Tillerson’s] nomination,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the decision to support Tillerson “wasn’t an easy call.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Tillerson’s nomination on Monday. Despite strong opposition from Democrats, the support from McCain and Graham nearly ensures that Tillerson will secure the position.
McCain has expressed concern about Tillerson’s relationship with Putin. Tillerson has met with Putin on numerous occasions to negotiate oil deals, and the Russian autocrat awarded the retired oil man the Order of Friendship in 2012.
McCain has also expressed concern about where Tillerson stands on sanctions against Russia, both for its involvement in the hacking of Democrats during the presidential campaign and for its aggression against Ukraine. But McCain says he has been set at ease on those issues after meeting with Tillerson.
“He talked to me a lot about his views about Russia about the events that have taken place, about what his duties were as the head of one of the world’s largest corporations,” said McCain, who added that he has been “very cautious” in vetting Tillerson.
“When there’e doubt, the incoming president gets benefit of the doubt,” added McCain, who voted in favor of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry’s, President Obama’s two secretaries of state.
Graham announced his support on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and then on Twitter.
McCain and Graham also issued a joint statement expressing support for Tillerson. They also noted they still have concerns about Tillerson’s ties to Russia.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 22, 2017
One other prominent Republican who has expressed doubt about Tillerson is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Asked Sunday whether Rubio will be supporting Tillerson, his office told The Daily Caller that an announcement on that has not been set.