Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Donald Trump’s secretary of state on Wednesday, putting a private-sector Texan in charge of the State Department.
Tillerson was confirmed largely along party lines in a 56-43 Senate vote, although four senators who caucus with Democrats voted in favor of his nomination.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Warner of Virginia and Angus King of Maine voted in favor. Manchin, Heitkamp and King are all up for re-election in 2018. All four also had voted to end debate on Tillerson’s nomination earlier this week, making Wednesday’s vote a largely procedural matter. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware did not vote.
“Congrats to Rex Tillerson on passing 50 votes in the Senate,” Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said in a tweet immediately after the vote. “Proud to have a Texan leading the State Department.”
Tillerson’s nomination received more opposition than those of his predecessors under President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Clinton’s nomination passed by 94-2 and Kerry’s by 94-3. Previously, the most contentious secretary of state nominee in recent times was George W. Bush appointee Condoleezza Rice in 2005, who passed by 85-13.
The vote on Tillerson came after the White House passed an executive order on Friday that temporarily bans travel and immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, and Democratic leaders like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York vowed to oppose Tillerson’s nomination until he answered questions on the order.
Tillerson heads to the State Department with no formal diplomatic experience, although he struck deals with world leaders during his tenure as Exxon Mobil CEO. He recently received an $180 million retirement package upon leaving the oil and gas giant.
The native of Wichita Falls, Texas, will become the first Texan in Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Fellow Texan and former Gov. Rick Perry is expected to join him in coming weeks as secretary of energy.