Rex Tillerson was sworn-in on Wednesday as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, following the Senate’s tightest confirmation vote for the position in decades.
“It’s time to bring a clear-eyed focus to foreign affairs,” Trump said at the White House swearing-in ceremony, adding, “All of us are better off when we act in concert and not conflict. There’s rarely been conflict in the world like we see today. Very sad.”
The vote split was almost down the middle: 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no, CNN reports. John Kerry, Tillerson’s predecessor in the same role, was confirmed by 94 to 3. Condoleezza Rice, the last secretary of state nominated by a Republican, was confirmed by 85-13, Reuters reports.
Tillerson survived the confirmation despite Democrats’ attempts to stall the vote. Most in dissent complained about the former Exxon Mobil Corp CEO’s ties to Russia after working there for years.
Though Tillerson’s confirmation was a big win for Trump’s administration, it appears that he has even bigger hurdles ahead following Trump’s chaotic immigration ban executive order. Trump’s order bans immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries and temporarily halts the entry of refugees.
Tillerson also faces a divided State Department. Diplomats on Monday circulated various drafts of a memo objecting to Trump’s aforementioned executive order, the Washington Post reports. The final draft has been signed by over 1,000 state department employees by Wednesday, the New York Times confirms.