In national politics Wednesday, several of President Trump’s cabinet nominees continued to move through the confirmation process, and Trump made a statement from the White House for the start of Black History Month.
Secretary of state confirmed
The Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as Trump’s secretary of state.
Tillerson, former chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed in an unusually narrow vote.
The Senate voted 56-43 for Tillerson’s confirmation.
The most recent secretary of state, John Kerry, was confirmed in 2013 with a 94-3 vote.
An uncertain relationship with China in the aftermath of Trump’s executive action to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, strong ties between Trump and Russia, moving the United States embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv guarantee many challenges for Tillerson’s position.
Trump’s recent announcement that he is putting Iran “on notice” after a missile test and an increasingly negative relationship with Mexico also present potential challenges.
Republican senators oppose education secretary pick
Two Republican senators announced Wednesday they would vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said they would not vote for DeVos.
With many senators predicting all Democratic senators will vote against DeVos as well, the vote for her confirmation could end in a tie.
GOP suspends rules for cabinet votes
Senate Democrats have boycotted the committee votes for Trump’s secretary of the treasury and secretary of health and human services for two days, so Senate Republicans suspended the rules Wednesday in order to vote for their confirmation with no Democrats present.
“They have nobody to blame but themselves,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Finance Committee, of the move to suspend the rules and avoid the boycott, according to Politico.
Both votes passed 14-0. Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia 8th District, was confirmed to head the Department of Health and Human Services, and Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin is to head the treasury.
Unclear whether Trump knows who Frederick Douglass was
Trump spoke at a Black History Month event Wednesday. He praised prominent black Americans, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, and also made a statement that could imply he believes Frederick Douglass is still alive.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said from the White House.
This left several national news organizations and politicians wondering whether Trump knows who Douglass was.
Douglass was born a slave in Maryland. He escaped and went on to become a well-known author, orator, abolitionist, statesman and activist. He died in 1895.
Press secretary Sean Spicer commented on the matter during the daily press briefing.
“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made,” Spicer said. “And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
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