Rex Tillerson's bid to be secretary of state narrowly won approval Monday from the Republican-led Foreign Relations Committee, a move that all but assures Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump's choice to be the nation's top diplomat, the AP reports. Members of the committee voted along party lines, 11-10, to back Tillerson following a contentious confirmation hearing nearly two weeks ago that stoked concerns he might not win the panel's recommendation. But just hours before members cast their votes, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., declared his support for Tillerson, backing off from a challenge to the new president. Rubio said that despite serious reservations about Tillerson, particularly over his views on Russia, he believed a president was entitled to significant deference in assembling his Cabinet.
None of the committee's 10 Democrats voted for Tillerson. They cited concerns Tillerson would continue to view the world through the lens of a corporate executive and not the nation's chief diplomat. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat, said Tillerson "equivocated" during his confirmation hearing on questions about human rights, civil society and press and religious freedoms, and repeatedly prioritized "narrow business interests ahead of these core national security interests." Every nominee for the job going back at least four decades has been approved by overwhelming votes from both sides in the Foreign Relations Committee, as senators have traditionally wanted to deliver a bipartisan display of confidence to the nation's top diplomat. No other nominee since 1977 has received more than two "no" votes from the committee.