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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio announces support for Rex Tillerson, avoiding Trump showdown

In this Jan. 11, photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, questions Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson during Tillerson's confirmation hearing before the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Associated Press

In this Jan. 11, photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, questions Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson during Tillerson's confirmation hearing before the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

23

January

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio announced this morning he will vote for Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, despite "reservations" about the former Exxon Mobil CEO.

The move avoids a confrontation with President Donald Trump and Trump's passionate supporters. But it also likely upsets Republicans who wanted to see a visible counter to Trump and his policies.

Democrats said Rubio caved and earned the Trump nickname "Little Marco."

"Given the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy," Rubio wrote on Facebook. "Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate."

His announcement comes hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a vote on Tillerson. On Sunday, Rubio was left more isolated when Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said they would back Tillerson.

In a long Facebook message, Rubio wrote:

... His answers on a number of other important questions were troubling. He did not condemn Russia’s repeated violations of the Minsk II agreement. While he condemned Russia for ‘supporting Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war,’ he refused to publicly acknowledge that Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes. Despite his 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. He indicated he would support sanctions on Putin for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect U.S. businesses operating in Russia. While he stated that the ‘status quo’ should be maintained for now on sanctions put in place following Putin’s illegal taking of Crimea, he was unwilling to firmly commit to maintaining them so long as Russia continues to occupy Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Human rights violations in China, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia are well documented in the latest annual Human Rights Report produced by the State Department, but Mr. Tillerson testified he ‘would need to have greater information’ before acknowledging them, and said he would not rely on ‘what I read in the papers.’ Identifying certain actions as human rights violations is an integral part of the secretary of state’s job, but Mr. Tillerson implied that speaking out on human rights would hinder his ability to do his job as the nation’s chief diplomat.

Mr. Tillerson is likely to have a potentially unprecedented level of influence over the direction of our foreign policy. 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.

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. Given the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy. Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate.

However, upcoming appointments to critical posts in the Department of State are not entitled to and will not receive from me the same level of deference I have given this nomination.

[Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2017 11:53am]

    

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