Former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, the likely future US secretary of state, is scheduled to appear Wednesday in the US Senate for his confirmation hearing.
President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Tillerson has been criticized because the 54-year-old Texan has never held political office and also because the former oil boss has close ties to Russia.
Tillerson represented ExxonMobil’s interests in Russia in the 1990s and was awarded the Order of Friendship by the Russian government in 2013.
In light of Tillerson’s lack of experience in diplomacy, an intensive round of questioning is expected from opposition Democrats on Wednesday. How he plans to conduct US-Russia relations under Trump will be among the most interesting lines of discussion.
In theory, any of Trump’s nominees for important cabinet positions could fail based on his or her responses to questions during the hearing. The Senate has the power to reject a nominee with a simple majority, but this is seen as unlikely because the Republican Party has 52 seats in the 100-member chamber.
The selection of Tillerson came as a surprise last month, especially after Trump publicly courted high-profile candidates, including former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani.
Trump has praised Tillerson as one of the world’s most successful businessmen with a career that is “the embodiment of the American dream.” He said Tillerson “knows how to manage a global enterprise” and has “relationships with leaders all over the world.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the committee, has said he looks forward to discussing with Tillerson his views on the US-Russian relationship and his past opposition to sanctions on Moscow.