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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rubio, elected on premise of defying Trump, announces support for Rex Tillerson

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Remember three months ago when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was trying his hardest to get Floridians to vote for him despite telling everyone "10,000 times" that he would be a private citizen? Back then, one of the Republican incumbent's main arguments against Democrat Patrick Murphy was that as a more experienced legislator, he would be able to stand up to a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald Trump, the same man he had called a "con man" during the primaries.

For a moment during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, it seemed like that could be true when Rubio was roasting Trump's secretary of state nominee and former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson over the latter's bromance with Vladimir Putin.

"Let me ask you this question—is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?" Rubio asked Tillerson during the hearing. After Tillerson replied, "I would not use that term," an irritated Rubio launched into a tirade.

"Well, let me describe the situation in Aleppo and perhaps that will help you reach that conclusion," Rubio responded. "In Aleppo, Mr. Putin has directed his military to conduct a devastating campaign...It's resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians."

But that gutsy nerve was gone Monday after Rubio, the last Republican holdout on Tillerson's nomination, announced in a lengthy Facebook post that he would support Tillerson despite concerns about Tillerson's refusal to call Putin a war criminal and his conditional support on sanctions against Russia.

"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," Rubio writes. "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 Washington Post reports that by approving Tillerson, Rubio "will spare himself what his allies anticipated would have been an angry backlash from the new administration in private."

After the Miami New Times blasted Rubio as "a man tragically born without a spine," the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace held up a spine prop behind him during his announcement on Tillerson.

"Marco Rubio voted to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, so we brought him the spine he must have left at home," the group said on Twitter.

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