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, but he’s the only Democrat we feel is siding this way.
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 have him down as a nay as well. 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.
The frustrating thing in trying to ascertain which way each Democratic Senator falls is that they’ll make public declarations on a few nominees, only to leave others out of the discussion. Senator Bob Casey this weekend mentioned three specifically which will get a nay from him- Sessions, Pruitt and Devos- without a comment on Tillerson, Mnuchin, Price or Carson. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin just declared his “Nay”, allowing the counts to creep up a little since the last release.
This will become a lot easier immediately after today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee Vote, as we expect a slew of press releases to spill out after that occurs at 4:30pm today.