Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says he will vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
The Republican announced his decision on Facebook on Monday, several hours ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Tillerson’s confirmation.
“Despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,” Rubio wrote.
Rubio was one of three prominent GOP senators who publicly expressed reservations about supporting Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Rubio, Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said they were concerned about Tillerson’s cozy business relationship with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
During last week’s confirmation hearing, Rubio bristled at Tillerson’s refusal to label Putin a war criminal for Russia’s actions in Syria and Ukraine, as well as the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissidents and journalists.
“I would not use that term,” said Tillerson, who added that he did not have enough information about Putin’s actions to apply the label.
As of Friday, Rubio said he was still weighing his vote on Tillerson. He met with the 64-year-old nominee last week.
Tillerson got a huge boost on Sunday when McCain and Graham said they will vote for confirmation.
In a joint statement, McCain and Graham said that while they still have “concerns” about Tillerson’s relations with Russia, they believe after meeting with him in private that he will be “an effective advocate for U.S. interests.” (RELATED: John McCain And Lindsey Graham Say They Will Vote For Rex Tillerson)
In his statement, Rubio said that he has “no doubts” about Tillerson’s qualifications and patriotism. He also said that he was encouraged by Tillerson’s affirmation last week that Russia was involved in cyber attacks during the presidential campaign and that its invasion of Crimea was “illegal and illegitimate.”
But Rubio was critical in his statement of Tillerson’s refusal to use the “war criminal” label to describe Putin. He also says he is concerned on Tillerson’s position regarding sanctions against Russia. The ex-businessman said he supported the “status quo” on sanctions but would not want to implement new restrictions if they hurt U.S. businesses operating in Russia.
“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,” said Rubio.
But he conceded that presidents are “entitled to significant deference” when it comes to their cabinet nominees. He concluded by stating that he will not give as much deference to other State Department nominees.