President-elect Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, setting up a possible confrontation with members of his own party in the Senate, according to a person involved in the transition.
Since Tillerson’s name emerged as a candidate for the post, leading Republicans have expressed reservations about his years of work in Russia and the Middle East on behalf of the multinational petroleum company.
GOP advisers have warned that a growing number of Republican senators may be unwilling to vote to confirm Tillerson because of his ties to Russia. While Senate Democrats cannot filibuster Trump’s Cabinet picks, Republicans have only 52 votes in the Senate, leaving them in potential jeopardy if Democrats unite in opposition to Tillerson. It will take at least 50 votes to confirm a nominee, plus Vice President-elect Mile Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
Yet Trump, after a protracted selection process that saw him also considering 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has decided to press ahead with Tillerson. Like others in the new Trump Cabinet, the ExxonMobil chief executive lacks any experience in government but will try to apply his experience in the business world to the realm of diplomacy. And he has worked extensively around the globe and built relationships with such leaders as Russian President Vladimir Putin.