Would Rex Tillerson Be Confirmed As Secretary Of State? His Appointment Would Be An Uphill Battle
Though no official announcement has even yet been made, there's already a massive controversy building around Donald Trump's latest potential Cabinet member, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. The oil boss's close ties with Russia would have been big news even without Friday's announcement from the CIA, which officially confirmed interference in the presidential election by the Russian government with the specific intent of helping Trump capture the presidency. Between the potential foreign policy nightmare and Tillerson's lack of government experience, this seems like an appointment that would be destined to fail. Would Tillerson be confirmed as Secretary of State? It would be a huge uphill battle, and Trump might want to consider conserving his political capital.
In the event that Trump decides to make the appointment official, Tillerson's confirmation would be on thin ice from the very beginning thanks to Senate Democrats' promise to grill Trump's Cabinet picks during thorough hearings. There's only so much the Dems could do since they're outnumbered in the Senate, but they've promised to take their time anyway. “There should be recorded votes, in my view, on every one of the president’s Cabinet nominees,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told Politico last week. “Having all of these hearings before the inaugural in a thorough and fair fashion seems very difficult to do.”
Accounting for the Democrats' nearly assured opposition to Tillerson, his nomination may fail if just a few Republican senators turn against him. Senator John McCain has already spoken out against Trump's reportedly forthcoming appointee, saying that his tie to the Russian president make him an uneasy choice for Trump's Cabinet. “I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me,” McCain said in an interview with Fox News Saturday. While this is far from a promise to oppose Tillerson's nomination, McCain could pretty easily swing the close vote thanks to his influence and standing within the party.
The deciding factor going forward is what will happen in the coming weeks. Assuming that Trump moves forward with the appointment despite the criticism of Tillerson's ties with the Russian government, the Senate Republicans will have to decide how the caucus will respond in a confirmation vote. Other top Republicans like Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and A few, like Texas senator John Cornyn and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, have potentially hinted at their views on the matter by condemning the Russian interference and calling for investigations into the hacks. Whether that translates to a coordinated attempt to block Tillerson's confirmation could decide the future of Trump's potential Secretary of State.