The Senate on Wenesday confirmed Rex Tillerson as the next secretary of state, voting 56-43 to approve the former Exxon Mobil CEO to be the nation’s top diplomat.
Despite some initial opposition to his nomination over his ties to Russia, Tillerson captured the support of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as well as a handful of red state Democrats.
Their concerns were spurred by Tillerson’s four decades at Exxon Mobil, during which he developed deep relationships with Moscow and was lauded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Donald Trump’s apparent warmth toward Putin and his reluctance to affirm the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. election with the intention of undermining Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, combined with Tillerson’s business ties to Russian interests, were of particular concern.
But as as Democrats have ramped up their opposition to Trump’s other Cabinet nominees and Supreme Court pick, Republicans have closed ranks to move forward with approving his government.
All 52 Republicans voted Monday to support Tillerson, advancing his nomination past a procedural hurdle. They were joined by Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia, as well as independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who typically votes with Democrats, who all also voted to approve Tillerson on Wednesday.
Heitkamp and Manchin, both hailing from states that voted heavily in favor of Trump in November, are considered two of a handful of Democrats most likely to reach across the aisle in supporting the new president’s initiatives, thanks to facing tough re-election bids in 2018.