The Senate has voted to confirm President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson.
On Feb. 1, 56 members of the Senate voted in favor of Tillerson while 43 voted against, making him the fourth Trump Cabinet appointee to receive confirmation.
Tillerson's confirmation process proved to be one of the most contentious in U.S. history. While he ultimately gained confirmation, it was with a far more divided vote than other controversial secretaries of state. For example, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was confirmed in 2005 with 85 in favor and 13 against while Henry Kissinger was confirmed in 1973 with 78 in favor and seven against, according to The New York Times.
In 2009, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confirmed with 94 senators in favor and only two against.
While the majority of Democrats opposed Tillerson's confirmation, he received supportive votes from Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia. Independent Sen. Angus King of Vermont, who has typically voted similarly to his Democratic colleagues, also voted in favor of Tillerson.
Democratic lawmakers had expressed skepticism towards Tillerson for his personal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the decisions he made as the executive of Exxon Mobil. During his tenure at the oil company, Tillerson made deals with governments accused of human rights violations.
Democrats also wanted to further question Tillerson about his position on a Jan. 27 Trump executive order that prohibited the admittance of refugees into the U.S. and placed a temporary entrance ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"Rex Tillerson has not answered questions about President Trump's Muslim travel ban," said Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. "Mr. Tillerson needs to tell us where he stands on this un-American policy."
During his confirmation hearings, Tillerson had signaled that he was against discriminatory immigration policies, NPR reports.
The former Exxon Mobil CEO stated that he did "not not support any particular group of people."
Just as Tillerson has been cleared to head the State Department, 900 U.S. diplomatic officials have signed a letter expression opposition against Trump's immigration order. The officials asserted that the policy "will not achieve its aim of making our country safer."
Former U.S. ambassador Ryan C. Crocker believes that Tillerson, who has no prior political experience, will face a daunting task in trying to maintain and strengthen relations abroad while Trump issues policies that many U.S. allies find antagonistic.
"Tillerson faces the most difficult task of any secretary of state in the postwar era in trying to reconcile President Trump's intention to make a radical break from decades of bipartisan consensus U.S. foreign policy leadership with the reality that, if he succeeds, such a break could lead to global chaos," Crocker said.