The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday advanced President Biden’s pick for ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, despite growing Republican opposition.
In a 12-9 vote, committee members voted to advance Lew during a closed-door business meeting. His nomination will now be put to a vote in the plenary room. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated last week that Democrats would move to quickly confirm him as war rages in Israel.
All Republicans on the committee, except Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed Lew’s passage. All Democrats voted for it.
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“I think it’s important, in the middle of a war, to have an ambassador. I think it’s important to have a representative of the United States,” Paul told Fox News. “I met with him privately. I think he’s a thoughtful person and I think he will do a good job.”
Republicans began expressing opposition to Lew in the days leading up to his hearing last week about his past work on Iran sanctions.
In 2018, a Senate report from the Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that Lew, during his tenure as Treasury Secretary during the Obama administration, “granted a specific license authorizing a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions.” of US dollars using the US financial system. »
In response, Lew said during the hearing: “I want to be clear, Iran is a threat to regional stability and to the existence of Israel. If confirmed, I will respect the president’s commitment Biden to deny Iran nuclear weapons.”
The report reveals that the administration attempted to convert $5.7 billion from U.S. banks into Iranian assets. He noted that the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control “encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds.”
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In January 2016, then-President Barack Obama announced a $400 million cash transfer to Iran, which was part of a larger payout of a $1.7 billion settlement , for which Lew came under intense scrutiny. The settlement was part of a long-running disagreement over an arms deal signed before Iran’s 1979 revolution, signifying the end of the country’s historic monarchy.
Lew – who also served during the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the Office of the President – came under scrutiny for the move. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the payment was made using a combination of Swiss and other foreign currencies and then transported to Iran on unidentified cargo planes.
At the hearing, senators cited those reports during questioning last week.
“Under the Obama administration, Mr. Lew was working directly under the table to bring Iran back into the financial system,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said during the closed-door work session Wednesday. “As a result, I will vote today to support Israel and I will vote no for Mr. Lew. He should be someone that Israelis trust, and that this committee trusts. I do not trust him For now. “
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Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News Digital last week that Lew was an Iran “sympathizer.”
“I know my Democratic colleagues argue that we should confirm Jack Lew as appropriate to show our support for Israel, but I would turn the tables. We should reject Jack Lew’s nomination to show that our nation has a new policy toward Israel. ‘Iran.” » said Cotton.
Lew’s Senate vote could happen as soon as next week.
Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie and Kelly Phares contributed to this report.