The Corner

Politics & Policy

Rubio and Tillerson

The Washington Post wonders whether Senator Marco Rubio will “defy” the president and vote against Rex Tillerson’s nomination for secretary of state.

If Senator Rubio were to vote against Tillerson, he would not be “defying” anybody. Rubio is in the Senate, which is part of one of the three co-equal branches of government. He cannot “defy” the president any more than he could “defy” the dean of students at Bryn Mawr College or the chairman of General Electric, because Senator Rubio is not answerable to the president. The Washington Post needs a civics refresher.

If it were me, I’d vote for Tillerson. I understand and share the concerns about his closeness to the government of Vladimir Putin and do not think “Well, he ran a big oil company” is an excuse. But he’s a smart and realistic man who is not likely to be lured by flattery or buffaloed — and who would be good to have around for the next few years. It does not seem likely that Donald Trump is going to choose a better candidate.

But, that being said, Senator Rubio should do what he thinks is in the best interest of the country, even if he disagrees with the president about what that is. Consent can be withheld as well as offered, or else it is not consent. The idea that the president is owed some kind of presumptive allegiance from legislators (whether members of his own party or not) is fundamentally at odds with our constitutional order.

And if Rubio’s opposition were to do a little to help Congress rediscover its self-respect — as opposed to its self-importance — then that would be welcome outcome as well.

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