Tillerson Inches Closer to Confirmation in Senate

WASHINGTON (CN) – Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, easily survived a procedural vote on his nomination in the Senate Monday night, clearing the way for his approval later in the week.

The former Exxon Mobil CEO was originally thought to be one of the most controversial of Trump’s picks, having received an award from Russian President Vladimir Putin and holding deep ties there. But Tillerson received a boost last week when Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio, two of the most vocal Russia opponents in the Senate, voted in favor of him in a committee vote.

The vote Monday night was to end debate on Tillerson’s nomination before the full Senate, so he will require another vote before taking office. But the 56-43 margin by which the Senate approved him all but guarantees he will receive approval later this week.

Even though Tillerson was able to clear Monday’s procedural hurdle, prominent Senate Democrats voted against Trump’s nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked on the floor shortly before the vote to push back the vote until Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries is repealed and Tillerson comes out against the order, which he appeared to oppose during his confirmation hearing.

“Now many of these comments that he made to the committee, Mr. Tillerson did, are at odds with the president’s policy,” Schumer said. “So, Mr. President, Democrats and Republicans alike and the American people most of all deserve to know whether Mr. Tillerson would implement or not because it seems to directly contradict comments he made under oath to a Senate committee.”

At his confirmation hearing earlier this month Tillerson said he did not support a “blanket-type rejection of any particular group of people.”

But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., objected to Schumer’s request, leading to the successful vote on Monday night. Four Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, Heidi Heitkamp and Angus King, voted with Republicans to advance Tillerson.

Under the rules the Senate will likely have to wait 30 hours before holding a vote on Tillerson’s full confirmation, meaning Trump could have to wait until early Wednesday night to finally have one of his key cabinet officials in place.

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