WASHINGTON — The Senate voted to confirm Rex Tillerson as the next Secretary of State on Wednesday, putting the former ExxonMobil CEO in place as the nation’s top diplomat.
On a mostly party-line vote, senators approved Tillerson’s nomination on Wednesday afternoon in spite of controversy over his friendly relationship with Russia’s leadership.
The final vote was 56 votes for Tillerson, and 43 votes against.
The confirmation comes in spite of concerns over Tillerson’s ties with Russia, his views on global warming and Trump’s wild remarks attacking the intelligence community over its report that Russia meddled in the 2016 election process. ExxonMobil’s opposition to sanctions on Russia, Iran and other despotic countries also raised concerns for senators. Others worried that Tillerson’s lack of government experience was a problem, especially since President Trump also has that gap in his resume.
Tillerson, who lunched with Trump on Wednesday, will immediately be thrust into a crucial role on the global stage as his new boss looks to remake the world order and dramatically change policies at home.
He’ll be tasked with managing strained relationships with close allies like Mexico, while leading Trump’s efforts to rebuild America’s relationship with Russia — and handle global crises like China’s military focus on the South China Sea.
Most Democrats blasted his confirmation.
“It is hard for me to understand how all of the Republicans who have been eviscerating President Obama for eight years for being soft on Russia are now supporting the nomination of Rex Tillerson, who has basically advertised that they are going to withdraw the line that the Obama administration has taken,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a floor speech before the vote.
Tillerson’s confirmation comes after he did enough to convince a trio of hawkish Republicans that he could be trusted enough on Russia to be confirmed. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all voted for him after expressing early doubts. A handful of Democrats defected as well: Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine).