Update on Our Senate Floor Vote Estimate for Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State)

The President’s Party has unanimously backed the Cabinet nominees in all but a few cases, and Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation will not be one of those exceptions. Senator Marco Rubio was considered a big holdout, but after Senators McCain and Graham confirmed their support over the weekend, he has opted for Yea. We think Senator Joe Manchin leans enough towards yes to put him in the ayes, and we have reason to believe Heidi Heitkamp is now a likely yes too: her meetings are described more in the tone as Manchin’s, with no direct approval but in sharp contrast to the more pointed descriptions her collegues have used after their one-on-ones with him. We see Mr. Tillerson getting to 53 votes (if Sessions abstains):


A lot of Senators on the Democratic side have had problems with ExxonMobil’s friendly relationship with Russia while he was CEO, without directly stating or strongly implying their intention to vote against him. Some have made Russia a cause of concern beyond confirmation hearings, one of them being Dianne Feinstein. Her statement this past week that Russian interference swung the election leads us to believe she will vote Nay on Tillerson as part of a broader “concern”. Beyond this, our focus turns to Senator leadership statements and individual Senators’ actions against other nominees. Senator Kamala Harris has already made it clear she will be taking up a more liberal position in the Senate and is a Nay on DHS Kelly, so it is highly unlikely she’ll oppose a popular nominee only to support a more controversial one. For similar reasons, we have Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as a Nay, after opposing Trump’s most popular nominee, Ret. Gen. James Mattis, in committee. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said repeatedly that Tillerson was going to be a block target, so we had him down as a nay well before he publicly stated so. Much of the guesswork involves discerning between a Senator’s questioning at the hearings and their intentions. Many a nominee has gone through a grilling before the cameras, only to win 70, 80, 90 yeas when the final vote comes around.

Since the Foreign Relations’ Committee’s 11-10 vote, a few more Senators have come out against Mr. Tillerson directly, but a dozen remain hard to read. The cloture vote to end debate on the nomination is expected at 5:30pm EST on Monday, and we will be covering it here live at the Desk. Senators can always change their minds, but with the Reid Rule holding and no Republicans now breaking ranks, we expect Mr. Tillerson will be confirmed next week, thanks to the majority party voting in solidarity padded with a few Democrats who have indicated their support.