I’ve never heard of a committee chairman promising before a vote on a major cabinet nominee that the vote simply won’t matter, but here we are.
Corker wants to play hardball to get Tillerson confirmed if he lacks votes in committee and move directly to floor. https://t.co/T3qSUAiAdQ
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 18, 2017
“Can’t remember the last time I saw a self-castration,” says my pal Karl of Corker. Normally a chairman wants his committee (and himself, by extension) to be as influential as possible in steering what the full Senate does on policy. The message should be, and otherwise always is, “The Senate should follow our lead. We know these issues better than most.” Instead Corker’s throwing away the most basic power the Foreign Relations Committee has, a de facto veto over who gets appointed to major diplomatic posts. If you were worried that Congress would be too deferential to Trump, this is a sterling example of why you were right to be. But that’s nothing new for Corker: He was the bright mind who came up with the idea of perverting normal Senate procedure to protect Obama’s Iran nuclear deal from being blocked. Encouraging his own branch to defer to the executive is what he does best.
We all know which senator these comments are aimed at too. Current Rubio status: Still undecided on Tillerson.
For Mr. Rubio, a gifted politician chastened by a failed White House run, the choice mirrors the broader question facing Republicans on Capitol Hill: Is the price of defying Mr. Trump — who can sink fortunes 140 Twitter characters at a time — worth paying to serve as a critical check on his expansive powers?
“On most major issues you are never going to make everyone happy,” Mr. Rubio said in an email Monday evening, when asked how the experience of running for president had affected his view of this job. “So you might as well do what you truly feel is right and let the political chips fall where they may.”
Hmmm. That last bit suggests Rubio is leaning towards voting no — which, assuming all Democrats vote no as well, would mean the committee would fail to recommend Tillerson for confirmation by a vote of 11-10. Interestingly, as of yesterday afternoon, they were scheduled to vote on Tillerson this morning, before Nikki Haley’s confirmation hearing began. That changed at some point within the last 18 hours or so; now the Tillerson vote will be held on Monday. That smells like Corker knows that Rubio is leaning towards no and wants to carve out more time to pressure him to change his mind. This morning’s comments about bringing the nomination to the floor no matter how the committee votes are one form of pressure. Rubio might as well vote yes, Corker seems to be hinting, because his “no” vote isn’t going to matter.
Although, if you’re Rubio, wouldn’t knowing that your vote won’t matter encourage you to vote your conscience? He’s taking a risk if he votes no and it sinks Tillerson’s nomination. Trump will be angry, his fans will be angry, and the new nominee at State might be even weaker than Tillerson is. Whereas if the Senate’s going to confirm Tillerson anyway no matter what Rubio does, he might as well protect his hawkish cred by giving T-Rex a thumbs down. He’ll still be Secretary of State and the Rubio brand as King Hawk will still be intact. It’s really, really weird that Corker would neuter his own committee and do it in a way that arguably increases the chances of Rubio voting no. With strategic genius like that on display, be glad that it was Tillerson rather than Corker who ended up with the nod for State.
In other “what the hell?” confirmation-hearing news, enjoy as Elizabeth Warren snubs Betsy DeVos by skipping yesterday’s post-hearing handshake. DeVos gets a “see ya” wave from a departing Warren at 1:40 below.