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Rex Tillerson’s Secretary of State nomination advances to Senate

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Senate voted 56-43 on Monday to end a Democratic filibuster of President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, allowing a final confirmation vote for the former ExxonMobil CEO to take place this week.

Lawmakers pushed Tillerson one step closer to confirmation, possibly Wednesday, despite calls by Senate Democrats to delay the procedural cloture vote until they had a chance to question Tillerson about Trump’s controversial immigration executive order.

Senate Democrats also used Monday’s vote as an opportunity to pound away at Trump’s anti-immigration executive order and demand its repeal.

“President Trump’s Muslim ban is unconstitutional and un-American,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California. “Poor execution of this executive order has resulted in chaos and confusion.”

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas rejected Feinstein’s call to repeal the order and insisted that it is not a “Muslim ban” but a temporary pause on immigration from seven nations.

“Here is the minority shedding crocodile tears over Trump’s immigration policy,” said Cotton, adding he believes his Democratic colleagues could to improve safety in the US by voting to confirm Tillerson and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.

Democrats said they intend to question all pending Trump nominees on whether they support the executive order in the wake of criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle since its implementation.

Last week, Tillerson won the backing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be secretary of state when it voted 11-10 along party lines to send his nomination to the full Senate.

In the committee vote, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had been a long hold-out and potential “no” vote after he raised concerns about Tillerson’s views toward Russia and human rights. But the Florida Republican announced the day of the committee vote that he would support the nomination.

If Rubio had voted no, it could have stalled Tillerson, although GOP leaders planned to move his nomination to the floor regardless.

Democrats have catalogued a series of concerns about Tillerson, including his stance on Russia and relationship with President Vladimir Putin, human rights, how long he would recuse himself from decisions that could affect ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s track record of doing business with despots.