ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson Image courtesy of

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is one step closer to leading the U.S. State Department after winning approval from a key Senate committee.

According to CNN, Tillerson won the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday by an 11 to 10 vote after winning support from Senator Marco Rubio.

Leadership officials from both parties told CNN that a final Senate confirmation vote is expected sometime next week.

Despite some tense exchanges during Tillerson’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio said on Monday that he supported Tillerson “despite reservations.”

Tillerson has not commented on the vote.

Tillerson, 64, was nominated to lead the State Department by President Donald Trump in early December.

Trump cited Tillerson’s business experience as a key factor behind his nomination.

In a Twitter message, Trump said “the thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.”

Tillerson has spent his entire career at ExxonMobil, joining the company in 1975 after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.

He retired from his post at Exxon at the start of the year.

Tillerson’s business ties to Russian firms drew scrutiny from some Republican senators.

When his nomination was announced, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and Rubio expressed concerns about Tillerson’s views on sanctions and his potential ties to Russia.

Senator John McCain told CBS News last month that Tillerson’s “close personal relationship” with Putin is a matter of “concern.”

Rubio and Graham also said they had questions about Tillerson’s relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In a Facebook post published on Monday, Rubio said he decided to support Tillerson’s nomination although he remains “concerned that in the years to come” that “our country will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve.”

Rubio said he has concerns about Tillerson’s reluctance to “publicly acknowledge that Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes” and for his support of sanctions against Russia “for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect U.S. businesses operating in Russia.”

Rubio also warned that “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.”

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group, applauded Tillerson’s nomination calling him a “world class” choice.

“As our nation’s next top diplomat, Rex has the strategic experience to effectively represent the new administration and the American people,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement in December.


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