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U.S. Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of state

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump's secretary of state on Wednesday, Feb. 1, filling a key spot on the Republican's national security team despite concerns about the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executi...

Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, smiles during his testimony before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state in Washington Jan. 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, smiles during his testimony before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state in Washington Jan. 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
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WASHINGTON-The U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump's secretary of state on Wednesday, Feb. 1, filling a key spot on the Republican's national security team despite concerns about the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive officer's ties to Russia.

In the vote, 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no. The tally was largely along party lines, with every Republican favoring Tillerson, along with four members of the Democratic caucus, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner as well as Angus King, an independent.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons did not vote.

Senate Democrats had tried, but failed, to delay the vote because of Trump's executive order banning immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries and temporarily halting the entry of refugees.

They said they wanted to ask Tillerson more questions about the issue after Trump signed the order on Friday.

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Senators had also expressed concerns over Tillerson's ties to Russia after the executive spent years there working for the oil company. Some faulted him for failing to promise to recuse himself from matters related to Exxon Mobil businesses for his entire term as secretary of state rather than only the one year required by law.

“I’ve known Mr. Tillerson for a long time and when we met in my office I was blunt about my concerns with his ability to assert that discipline given his ties to Russia and the new Administration’s talk of loosening sanctions on the country,” Heitkamp said in a statement.

Republicans said they thought Tillerson would be a strong leaders as the country's top diplomat. They also said it was important to fill key slots on Trump's national security team quickly.

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