Loretta Lynch won approval from a key Senate committee Thursday to serve as the nation's next attorney general, as divided Republicans clashed over her support for President Barack Obama's immigration policies.
The 12 to 8 vote in the Judiciary Committee sent Lynch's nomination to the full Senate. Three Republicans joined all committee Democrats in voting "yes."
"The case against her nomination, as far as I can tell, essentially ignores her professional career and focuses solely on about six hours that she spent before this committee," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as he criticized fellow Republicans for using Lynch's testimony in support of Obama's executive actions on immigration as a reason to oppose her nomination.
Timing is uncertain, but Lynch is all but assured approval by the full Senate as well, under new rules that will require only a majority vote instead of the 60-vote margin required for most legislation.
But she appears unlikely to win confirmation resoundingly, as Thursday's debate demonstrated that many Republicans will oppose her over Obama's executive actions granting work permits and deportation stays for millions of immigrants in the United States illegally.
"We should not confirm someone to that position who intends to continue that unlawful policy," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Lynch, 55, now serves as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She would replace Eric Holder and become the first black woman to hold the nation's top law enforcement job.