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U.S. Senate committee backs Tillerson as Trump's secretary of state

President Trump's choice for secretary of state narrowly won approval from a Senate committee on Monday.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,, right, pats Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson , left, on the shoulder after his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
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  • By Patricia Zengerle
    Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, narrowly won approval from a Senate committee on Monday but is expected to win confirmation from the full Senate.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 11-10 to approve Tillerson, with every committee Republican backing Tillerson and every Democrat opposing his nomination.

His backing by the committee had been in doubt until earlier on Monday, when Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a committee member, said he planned to back Tillerson.

His confirmation vote in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold a 52-seat majority, is not expected before next week.

Rubio said he was troubled by Tillerson's comments during his confirmation hearing regarding Russia as well as other countries, but that he ultimately decided he would vote to approve the nominee in deference to Trump, as well as to fill a critical top job.

Democrats who voted against Tillerson said their concerns included fears that he might move to lift sanctions on Russia, where he did business for years as an Exxon executive, questions about his views on human rights and unhappiness that he would not promise to recuse himself from matters related to Exxon during his entire term as the top U.S. diplomat.

Tillerson said during his hearing that he would recuse himself only for the one year required by law.

Tillerson also angered some lawmakers during the hearing by saying he did not know that Exxon Mobil had lobbied against Russian sanctions while he was running the company.

Senator Ben Cardin, the committee's ranking Democrat, said Tillerson's "business orientation" and responses at his hearing "could compromise his ability as secretary of state to forcefully promote the values and ideals that have defined our country and our leading role in the world for more than 200 years."

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