Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for US Secretary of State, has obtained confirmation from the Senate, doing so by a margin of 56 to 43.
Tillerson has now been sworn in, which means that the US State Department now has a proper head, with Tillerson taking over from acting Secretary of State Tom Shannon, who has been running the State Department since John Kerry left on 20th January 2017.
It is being said that Tillerson’s confirmation saw the closest vote for any confirmation of a Secretary of State in history, with comparisons being made to the 94 to 2 vote which confirmed Hillary Clinton, the 94 to 3 vote which confirmed John Kerry, and the 85 to 13 vote which confirmed George W. Bush’s last pick, Condoleezza Rice.
However it is not entirely unknown for the Senate to reject a pick for a senior cabinet post by a newly elected President. This actually happened in 1989 when the Senate rejected John Tower, US President George H.W. Bush’s choice for Secretary of Defense.
There were at one point serious concerns that Tillerson would fail to get confirmed because of his previous business links to Russia, and with the Democrats in the present poisonous atmosphere doing seemingly all in their power to delay or block the confirmation process Tillerson’s confirmation did not at one point look like a foregone conclusion.
In the event Tillerson handled his confirmation hearings with great skill, and not only did all the Republicans – including the anti-Russia uber hawks John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio – vote for him, but so did three Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner, as well as Angus King, an independent.
Donald Trump now has the Secretary of State he wants.
It will be interesting to see how quickly Tillerson meets Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov – by common consent the most terrifyingly capable diplomat in the world today – and how well the two will get on with each other.