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Former Exxon CEO Tillerson Confirmed as Secretary of State

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Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief, won Senate confirmation as secretary of state after lawmakers split mostly along party lines on U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice of an oilman with no government experience but a career negotiating billions of dollars of energy deals worldwide.

On a vote of 56-43 Wednesday, Republicans overcame a demand by Democrats to delay the confirmation until Tillerson provided his views on the executive order Trump signed restricting entry to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations. One of Tillerson’s first challenges as the top U.S. diplomat will be dealing with the fallout from the order, which has brought condemnation from governments around the world.

Republican senators echoed Trump’s conviction that Tillerson’s role as chairman and chief of executive officer of Exxon, the world’s largest energy company by market value, gave him the connections and skills needed to promote U.S. interests abroad. Democrats countered that his 41 years at Exxon left him with a narrow worldview and built-in conflicts of interest.

“I’m confident as secretary of state he will protect the interests of the American people just as he protected the interests of Exxon Mobil shareholders as their CEO,” Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, said during hours of floor debate in the Senate before the vote.

Vice President Mike Pence, with Trump at his side, administered the oath of office to Tillerson Wednesday evening in the Oval Office. “You bring the unique skills and deep, deep insights — and I’ve gotten to see it first hand — into foreign diplomacy our nation needs to foster stability and security in a world too often trapped in violence and in war,” Trump said.

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Written by Nick Wadhams

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