WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced Jack Lew’s nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The Democratic-led panel reported the nomination out of the committee in a 12-9 vote Wednesday, a week after Lew — who served as treasury secretary and White House chief of staff under then-President Barack Obama — testified before lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.
Kentucky Sen. was the only Republican in the committee who voted with all Democratic members to advance Lew’s nomination.
Lew needed a simple majority in the committee to support his nomination to advance to the Senate floor, where a final confirmation vote will likely occur next week.
Some Senate Republicans had expressed earlier this week that they were frustrated with responses that Lew submitted to their follow-up questions after his hearing last week, and requested additional information before moving forward with the committee vote.
The full Senate is expected to hold the confirmation vote on Lew’s nomination next week at the earliest, as holding a vote this week would require an agreement among all 100 senators, which is highly unlikely because of GOP opposition to his nomination.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Lew said that Israel’s “security is paramount” and called Iran “a threat to regional stability and Israel’s existence.”
“I will do my utmost to end the horrific attacks by Hamas and to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself, and I will spare no effort in working to help American citizens now captive to return home safely,” he said.
After the Oct. 7 terror attack, the White House began working urgently to kick-start the confirmation process. Congressional recesses and other issues had delayed it after President Joe Biden nominated Lew in September.
Lew is likely to receive widespread support from Senate Democrats, but it is unclear how many Republicans he can win over. And while he may not need GOP backing if all 51 members of the Democratic Caucus back him, unanimous bipartisan support would allow for a faster confirmation vote.
Republicans have been critical of Lew over his involvement in a 2015 Iran nuclear deal as treasury secretary during the Obama administration. They’ve accused him of having secretly given Iran access to U.S. financial markets in that period. Lew, however, has denied the allegation and said at his confirmation hearing that Iran complained “that my actions are what kept them from getting full access to the world financial system.”
The U.S. has not had a Senate-confirmed ambassador to Israel since Tom Nides left the administration in July. Stephanie Hallett, a career diplomat, has been the top U.S. official at the U.S. Embassy in the interim.
Lew, who is Jewish, has decades of experience in Washington and has been active in pro-Israel advocacy circles. He was the White House chief of staff for the last two years of Obama’s first term and then treasury secretary from 2013 to 2017.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com