The Senate Judiciary Committee gave initial approval Thursday to Jeffrey Rosen as the new deputy attorney general, sending him to the full Senate for a vote likely next week.
President Trump tapped Mr. Rosen to replace Rod Rosenstein, who is leaving the department after more than two years as the No. 2 person.
The committee cleared Mr. Rosen on a 12-10 party-line vote amid ongoing fights over the role of the Justice Department in handling the special counsel’s Russia investigation and other Trump administration business.
But Democrats said their complaints were about lack of readiness on the part of Mr. Rosen, who’s never been a prosecutor nor worked at the department.
“We can’t and shouldn’t afford to have someone who is learning on the job,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee. “We need a deputy attorney general who has the experience to exhibit the knowledge and integrity required.”
Mr. Rosen, who currently works as deputy secretary of transportation, previously worked in private practice as a lawyer before joining the Trump administration.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said his experience in another Cabinet department means he has the management skills needed to help lead the Justice Department.
“To me, I think he is exceedingly well-qualified,” Mr. Graham said.
The committee also advanced four of the president’s district court nominees.