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Two key senators announce support for secretary of state nominee Tillerson

Two powerful U.S. senators announced they would back the secretary of state nomination of Rex Tillerson, a native Texan.

Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, testifies before a Senate Foreign
Relations …

WASHINGTON — The secretary of state nomination of former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, a native Texan, got a boost on Sunday when two powerful senators announced they would support his confirmation. 

U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released a joint statement announcing their decision. Both Republicans treated the Tillerson nomination with skepticism because of his ties with Russia while an oil executive. 

"After careful consideration, and much discussion with Mr. Tillerson, we have decided to support his nomination to be Secretary of State," the statement said. "Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests." 

With this announcement, Tillerson likely will have the votes for confirmation before the Senate as a whole. Another possible barrier remains, though, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is expected to vote on Tillerson on Monday.

All eyes are on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, who subjected Tillerson to intensive questioning during his testimony before the committee earlier this month. 

As for McCain, his endorsement of President Donald Trump's pick was not exactly ringing. 

"This wasn't an easy call, but I also believe that when there's doubt, the incoming president gets the benefit of the doubt, and that's the way I've treated every president that I've had the obligation to vote for or against as a member of the United States Senate," McCain said on ABC's "This Week." 

Disclosure: Exxon Mobil has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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