Despite increasing Republican opposition, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved President Biden’s nomination for Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, on Wednesday.
During a private meeting, the committee members decided to advance Lew by a vote of 12 to 9. The whole Senate will soon hold a vote on his nomination. As the war in Israel escalates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said last week that the Democrats will move swiftly to confirm him.
Every Republican on the committee, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed Lew’s passage. All Democrats voted in favor.
“I think it’s important in the middle of a war to have an ambassador. I think having a representative from the United States is important,” Paul said in an interview. “I met with him privately. I think he’s a thoughtful individual, and I think he will do a good job.”
In the days leading up to last week’s hearing, Republicans started speaking out against Lew for his prior work on Iran sanctions.
As secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration, Lew granted a specific license that authorized the conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system, according to a report published in 2018 by the investigative subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In response, Lew said during the hearing: “I want to be clear: Iran is a threat to regional stability and Israel’s existence. If confirmed, I will uphold President Biden’s commitment to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.”
According to the report, the Obama administration attempted to convert $5.7 billion from American banks into Iranian assets. There was mention of how the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds.
Lew came under fire in 2016 when Obama announced a $400 million cash transfer to Iran as part of a $1.7 billion settlement. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought the end of the country’s historical monarchy, and with it came the resolution of a long-standing dispute over a weapons trade.
Lew, who served as a special assistant to the president’s office during the Clinton administration, drew criticism for the transfer. Reports from The Wall Street Journal show that the transaction was executed using a combination of Swiss and other foreign currencies, which were then transported to Iran in unmarked cargo planes.
Last week’s hearing included questions from senators who referenced these allegations.
“During Obama’s administration, Mr. Lew was working directly under the table to get Iran back into the financial system,” ranking member Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said during Wednesday’s closed business meeting. “As a result, I will vote today to support Israel and vote no on Mr. Lew. It should be someone the Israelis will have trust in, and this committee will have trust in. I don’t have trust in him at this time.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a Senate Armed Services Committee member, told Fox News Digital last week Lew is an Iran sympathizer.
“I know my Democratic colleagues contend that we should confirm Jack Lew properly to show our support for Israel, but I would turn that around. We should defeat Jack Lew’s nomination to show that our nation has a new policy towards Iran.” Cotton said.
The Senate floor vote on Lew might come as soon as next week.