Rubio will support Tillerson, removing confirmation hurdle

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and James Risch, R-Idaho, attend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson in Dirksen Building, January 11, 2017.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that he will vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as secretary of State after previously expressing concerns about the former Exxon Mobil CEO.

"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," the Florida Republican said in a statement.

The support from Rubio, a Senate Foreign Relations committee member, all but removes Republican opposition to Tillerson's nomination in the GOP-controlled Senate. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also said they will vote for Tillerson despite their misgivings.

Rubio, McCain and Graham expressed concerns about Tillerson's ties to Russia amid a U.S. response to Moscow's alleged efforts to influence the 2016 election. Tillerson previously did business with Russia and received an award from President Vladimir Putin.

Rubio said he still has doubts about Tillerson due to some of the answers he gave in his Senate confirmation hearing, including refusing to acknowledge that Putin committed war crimes in Syria. But Rubio added that he was "encouraged" by Tillerson's condemnation of the alleged election interference and statement that the Russian annexation of Crimea was illegal.

The committee will vote on Tillerson on Monday. With the support of Rubio, McCain and Graham, Tillerson is all but assured to be confirmed in the wider GOP-controlled Senate.