By the numbers:
- Votes in favor of Betsy DeVos: 50
- Votes opposed to Betsy DeVos: 50
- Vote split confirming Rex Tillerson: 56 – 43
DeVos’ future hangs in the balance
Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, has garnered the support of 50 Republicans. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s just barely enough to get a confirmation with a tie-breaking vote from the vice president.
Two Republican senators broke with the pack today and announced their opposition to DeVos’ nomination, creating a fairly rare situation where the vice president will have to step in to settle a tie even though the president’s party holds a majority in the Senate. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced their opposition, giving slightly more hope to the Democrats in striking down one of Trump’s nominees.
The path to 51 votes against DeVos is still narrow with many Republicans who were in the middle breaking to confirm her. The best hope to Democrats, Dean Heller (R-Nevada), gave a strong endorsement for DeVos. Heller is the only Republican senator up for election in 2018 from a state that Clinton carried.
The 69th Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson has been confirmed as secretary of state in a 56 – 43 vote in the Senate. Tillerson is a controversial figure who has ignited protest from the left for his ties to ExxonMobil and caught fire from the right for his ties to Russia.
Tillerson served as the chief executive officer of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, striking deals in Russia that paved the way for drilling in the Arctic. Tillerson drove a hard deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin and refused to allow him to simply pen an executive order to push the deal through.
Since his initial nomination, Tillerson has come to a middle ground between the left and the right. Tillerson has joined the scientific consensus that climate change is happening, with a caveat that he is unsure of how much is caused by humans. Tillerson has also called the annexation of Crimea by Russia illegal.
Occupying a mediating persona next to Trump will be Tillerson’s greatest test moving forward. As Trump moves against Mexico, Iran and other countries around the world, Tillerson will have to operate somewhere outside of that in order to maintain the American foreign relationships around the world.