Hutchison helped shepherd Tillerson through Senate confirmation

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, under consideration for the NATO ambassadorship, played a key role in shepherding U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson through his Senate confirmation.

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is shown speaking at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 20, 2014.
Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is shown speaking at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 20, 2014.  Bob Daemmrich

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is reportedly under serious consideration to serve as the U.S. ambassador to NATO, played a key role in helping the Texan who might become her boss pass Senate confirmation in January.

Hutchison used her nearly 20 years of Senate experience to interrogate then-nominee and current U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in mock confirmation hearings, known in Washington nomenclature as "murder boards." 

"She participated as a senator, sitting up there on the dais," a Republican strategist with close ties to the Trump White House told The Texas Tribune.  

A representative for Hutchison did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Tillerson's real-life Senate confirmation hearings were highly contentious. Democrats put the former Exxon Mobil CEO through the ringer, as did a Republican, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.  

CNN reported last week that Hutchison was the leading contender for the NATO ambassadorship, a position that falls within the U.S. State Department.

Hutchison served in the U.S. Senate from 1993 until 2013, where she was a senior member of Senate leadership. Her foreign policy background includes service on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. 

A congressional insider close to Hutchison during her Senate years said one of Hutchison's key foreign policy positions was that other countries needed to contribute more to NATO — a stance she took long before President Donald Trump made it a campaign promise. Trump recently backed off his criticism of NATO. 

Both Hutchison and Tillerson are native Texans and graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. 

Disclosure: Exxon Mobil Corp. and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. The author of this article briefly worked for Kay Bailey Hutchison more than a decade ago.  

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