WASHINGTON (CN) – Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson won approval by the Senate on Wednesday to serve as secretary of state under President Donald Trump.
The 56-43 vote gives Trump his sixth nominee, with the Senate having most recently confirmed Elaine Chao to lead the Department of Transportation.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner were the three lone Democrats who broke party lines to vote for Trump’s pick. They joined Sen. Angus King, a registered Independent. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., did not vote, and all Republicans supported Tillerson.
Given the close ties to Russia that he cultivated as head of Exxon, and his history of opposing sanctions against the country, Tillerson was initially thought to be one of Trump's most controversial cabinet appointees.
He received a large boost, however, when Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain, two of the toughest Russia critics in the Senate, announced their intent to vote for him.
After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to send him to the full Senate last week, Tillerson's confirmation today was a fairly foregone conclusion.
"Given the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy," Rubio said in a statement ahead of the committee vote to approve Tillerson.
In a key procedural hurdle the oil executive assed Monday night, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had tried to delay the vote on Tillerson in light of Trump's executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Schumer called on Tillerson to condemn Trump’s order and tried to keep the Senate from voting on nominee before the order is repealed.
Fitting with other protests against Trump's cabinet appointees during the week, Democrats forced Republicans to take lengthy votes on typically perfunctory motions after Tillerson passed. Earlier in the day Wednesday Republicans changed the rules to confirm two of Trump's appointees without Democrats present.
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