WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is reportedly under serious consideration to serve as the U.S. ambassador to NATO, played a key role in helping the Texan who might become her boss pass Senate confirmation in January.

Hutchison used her nearly 20 years of Senate experience to interrogate then-nominee and current U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in mock confirmation hearings, known in Washington nomenclature as "murder boards." 

"She participated as a senator, sitting up there on the dais," a Republican strategist with close ties to the Trump White House told The Texas Tribune.  

A representative for Hutchison did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Tillerson's real-life Senate confirmation hearings were highly contentious. Democrats put the former Exxon Mobil CEO through the ringer, as did a Republican, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.  

CNN reported last week that Hutchison was the leading contender for the NATO ambassadorship, a position that falls within the U.S. State Department.

Hutchison served in the U.S. Senate from 1993 until 2013, where she was a senior member of Senate leadership. Her foreign policy background includes service on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. 

A congressional insider close to Hutchison during her Senate years said one of Hutchison's key foreign policy positions was that other countries needed to contribute more to NATO — a stance she took long before President Donald Trump made it a campaign promise. Trump recently backed off his criticism of NATO. 

Both Hutchison and Tillerson are native Texans and graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. 

Disclosure: Exxon Mobil Corp. and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. The author of this article briefly worked for Kay Bailey Hutchison more than a decade ago.  

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