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By Dean Scott
President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state easily cleared his first hurdle toward confirmation on the Senate floor Jan. 30, with senators voting 56-43 on a procedural vote on the nomination of former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson only needed a simple majority on the initial cloture vote; his final confirmation vote is expected over the coming days. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters he expects that vote to come Feb. 1 if Democrats choose to burn all of the hours of floor debate they’re now entitled to following the initial vote.
There were no Republican defections. Three Democrats—Sens. Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Mark Warner (Va.)—voted for Tillerson’s nomination, as did Maine Independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats.
Democrats launched a last-ditch attack just before the vote, calling on the former Exxon Mobil executive to recuse himself from any matter involving the oil company “for the entirety of his tenure.” The letter, sent to Tillerson and signed by 10 Democrats including Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), noted that Tillerson’s ethics agreement only pledges his recusal from Exxon Mobil matters for one year.
Corker, the Foreign Relations chairman, told reporters he rejects that argument. Tillerson is already “going to have no economic involvement whatsoever” for one year given his pledged recusal, which Corker said is a “sterling example” for other nominees going forward.
“Look, if the Pope were nominated right now as secretary of state he would likely not be getting Democratic votes right now, very few,” Corker said.
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