Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of State

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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 Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) joined all Republicans in backing Trump’s nominee. Sen. Chris Coons (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 Corker (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.” 

{mosads}He added that the administration also needs to “get on with” naming Tillerson’s deputies. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (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 Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved on Monday to delay a procedural vote, but was blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton (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 Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (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.


Tags Angus King Ben Cardin Bob Corker Chris Coons Chris Murphy Chuck Schumer Heidi Heitkamp Joe Manchin Marco Rubio Mark Warner Tom Cotton

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