Biden nominee for Israel ambassador Jack Lew advances in Senate committee, headed to floor vote

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced President Biden’s nominee pick for ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, on Wednesday, despite mounting Republican opposition. 

In a 12-9 vote, committee members voted to advance Lew during a closed business meeting. His nomination now heads to a full floor vote. Sen. Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer D-N.Y., indicated last week Democrats would move to quickly confirm him as war rages on in Israel.

Every Republican on the committee, except Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed Lew’s passage. Every Democrat voted in favor.

‘I think it’s important in the middle of a war to have an ambassador. I think it’s important to have a representative from the United States,’ Paul told Fox News. ‘I met with him privately. I think he’s a thoughtful individual and I think he will do a good job.’

Republicans began voicing opposition to Lew in the days leading up to his hearing last week over his past work on Iran sanctions.

In 2018, a Senate report by the investigative subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that Lew, during his tenure as secretary to the Treasury under the Obama administration, ‘granted a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system.’  

In response, Lew said during the hearing: ‘I want to be clear, Iran is a threat to regional stability and to Israel’s existence. If confirmed, I will uphold President Biden’s commitment to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.’ 

The report found that the administration tried to convert $5.7 billion from U.S. banks to Iranian assets. It noted that the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ‘encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds.’

In January 2016, then-President Barack Obama announced a $400 million cash transfer to Iran that was part of a larger installment of a $1.7 billion settlement, for which Lew faced scrutiny. The settlement was part of a long-standing disagreement over an arms deal that was signed before the 1979 Iranian revolution, signifying the end of the nation’s historical monarchy.

Lew — who also served during the Clinton administration as special assistant to the president’s office — faced scrutiny for the transfer. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the payment was conducted using a combination of Swiss and other foreign currencies, then transported to Iran on unidentified cargo planes.

Senators during the hearing cited these reports in their questioning last week.

‘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 the closed business meeting Wednesday. ‘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., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, 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.

Lew’s vote on the Senate floor could happen as early as next week. 

Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie and Kelly Phares contributed to this report. 

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