Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of State

The Senate on Wednesday approved Rex Tillerson to lead President Trump's State Department, despite a late effort by Democrats to slow down the nomination. 

Tillerson was approved in a 56-43 vote. Though Democrats largely lined up against Tillerson, he got some Democratic support. 

Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (W.Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSchumer walking tightrope with committee assignments Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Hillicon Valley: Huawei executive facing possible US fraud charges | Dem blames White House for failure of election security bill | FCC investigating wireless carriers over coverage data | Assange rejects deal to leave embassy MORE (Va.) and Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDems have new moniker for Trump: ‘Unindicted co-conspirator' Maine senator calls impeachment 'last resort': 'We may get there, but we’re not there now' Maine senator: Flynn filing should make White House most nervous MORE (Maine) joined all Republicans in backing Trump’s nominee. Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsIRS issues guidance aimed at limiting impact of tax on nonprofits' parking expenses Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Overnight Defense: Washington bids farewell to George H.W. Bush | Senators offer resolution calling Saudi prince 'complicit' in Khashoggi killing | US Navy sails near Russia-claimed waters MORE (D-Del.) skipped the vote.

Tillerson will take over his post as the country's top diplomat as lawmakers remain skeptical over Trump's foreign policy, including his stance toward Russia and Trump's controversial executive order on immigration.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight Congress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle MORE (R-Tenn.) specifically pointed to Russia as one area he expects Tillerson to home in on. 

"I would say the place that, if I were him, that I would want to be focused is my strategy on the Russia issue," he told reporters. "It's one where you know the president seems fairly engaged and I think as secretary of State he probably wants to make sure that he's developed his thinking on how to push back on Putin." 

ADVERTISEMENT

He added that the administration also needs to "get on with" naming Tillerson's deputies. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDems have new moniker for Trump: ‘Unindicted co-conspirator' John Kelly’s exit raises concerns about White House future Rubio: We don’t need direct evidence crown prince ‘ordered the code red’ on Khashoggi killing MORE (R-Fla.) also noted his belief that the secretary of a State "is the most important cabinet position that the president has to nominate" as explanation for why he is supporting Tillerson despite concerns."

"There is so much uncertainty and debate about our role in the world these days," he said. "A lot of our allies have questions. Our adversaries are obviously watching very closely."

Democrats launched a failed effort to delay Tillerson's nomination until after he had time to weigh in on Trump's executive order, which bars citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S., temporarily prevents all refugees from entering the country and indefinitely suspends resettlement for refugees from Syria.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFreedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives House approves two-week spending measure to avert shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) moved on Monday to delay a procedural vote, but was blocked by Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure Trump ultimatum sparks fears of new arms race GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill MORE (R-Ark.). 

Instead, Democrats shifted to an uphill battle to try to convince Republicans to vote against Tillerson. 

They noted that dozens of GOP lawmakers had raised concerns about Trump's executive order and that Tillerson, a former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., had not backed new sanctions targeting Moscow. 

"This is all an advertisement for a very simple idea — that this is probably the absolute worst time to have the first American President with no government experience and no diplomatic experience pick the first Secretary of State with no government experience and no diplomatic experience," said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Overnight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border Mueller filings threaten Trump but fall short of case for impeachment MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinGeorge H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable Trump confronts new Russia test with Ukraine crisis MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, added: “We need, as the next Secretary of State, a person who is going to be a leader in saying: We are going to use every one of our diplomatic tools to isolate Russia if they continue this activity of interfering with our elections."

- Updated at 3:03 p.m.