Isakson, Perdue sound positive notes over Donald Trump’s secretary of state pick

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Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson speaks in Atlanta last year. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

WASHINGTON — As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue will have outsized roles in determining whether Rex Tillerson will be confirmed as Secretary of State. And both senators on Tuesday sounded positive notes over Donald Trump’s pick, even as both stopped short of explicitly vowing to support the Exxon Mobil CEO for the Cabinet position.

Isakson said Tillerson had an “impressive background with unique experience and extensive knowledge of working in a global environment.”

Perdue acknowledged Tillerson did not have a traditional diplomatic background, but said that “after eight years of foreign policy setbacks, we will need to make some bold changes to help re-establish American leadership and credibility around the world.” He touted Tillerson’s business background.

The statements released by both lawmakers hinted that they could follow Senate tradition of meeting with the Cabinet nominee before publicly announcing their positions.

Tillerson’s past business dealings with Russia have some Senate Republicans squirming, raising questions about whether Democrats could sink the nomination in the new year.

Democrats can’t filibuster Cabinet nominations, but Trump can only afford to have two Republican senators defect, assuming Democrats oppose Tillerson across-the-board.

Even more pressing in the interim is what’s going to happen before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must advance the Tillerson nomination first. There are 10 Republicans on the panel and 9 Democrats, so even one GOP senator voting ‘nay’ could be enough to jeopardize the nomination. Rubio sits on that committee.

Another influential Georgian, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, praised Tillerson as an effective ambassador for Trump’s foreign policy at a Heritage Foundation speech.

“What if he actually effectively represents America?” said Gingrich, according to Talk Media News. “What if we actually get good deals … what if he’s actually able to explain Trumpism to the world?”

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