The U.S. Senate has confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, revealing "just how much fossil fuel industry money has corrupted Congress," as climate group 350.org put it.
The 56-43 vote went largely along party lines, but got some Democratic support, including from Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Mark Warner (Va.), as well as Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine)—the same non-Republican quartet who allowed Tillerson to advance on Tuesday.
"A vote for Rex Tillerson is a vote for climate disaster," said May Boeve, 350 executive director. "Negotiating oil deals with human-rights abusing heads of state does not qualify you to lead international diplomacy. The fight against Tillerson's nomination revealed just how much fossil fuel industry money has corrupted Congress."
"In the face of this corruption, we all must come together to fight for the renewable energy revolution and an economy that works for all of us," she said.
Despite the marginally bipartisan support, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) pointed out that Tillerson also received the highest "no" vote of any secretary of state candidate since at least World War II.
Tillerson stepped down from his post at Exxon in December. During his confirmation hearings, the oil baron only offered to recuse himself for a year from diplomatic decisions that could impact Exxon, downplayed the urgency of climate change, and danced around questions over what Exxon knew about global warming decades ago.
"Tillerson failed to explain how he would resolve potential conflicts of interest over the next four years and...evaded questions about ExxonMobil's positions and actions under his leadership," said Kathy Mulvey, UCS' accountability campaign manager, calling on him to recuse himself from those decisions for the duration of his four-year term and ensure that the U.S. takes proactive steps to keep global warming below 2°C, as prescribed by the landmark Paris climate agreement.
"The scientific community and the 194 other countries that signed the Paris climate agreement will not sit idly by," Mulvey said. "We will be watching Mr. Tillerson's actions closely."