Senate banking panel approves Szubin for key sanctions post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Banking Committee approved Barack Obama’s choice to be the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence by a 14-8 vote on Thursday, nearly 11 months after the president nominated him.

Obama nominated Adam Szubin in April 2015 for the post, which oversees U.S. sanctions as well as efforts to cut off money illegally flowing to nations such as Iran and North Korea and groups including Islamic State.

But his nomination got caught up in partisan fighting over foreign policy, particularly the international nuclear agreement with Iran announced in July, between the administration of Obama, a Democrat, and Republicans who control Congress.

Senator Richard Shelby, the banking panel’s chairman, did not allow votes on any of Obama’s nominees until after surviving a challenge in Alabama’s primary on March 1.

All eight of the “no” votes on the committee were from Republicans, although four Republicans joined all of the panel’s 10 Democrats in recommending Szubin. The nomination must still be approved by the full Senate.

Shelby, who voted no, told reporters the nominee “is a nice man,” and qualified for many jobs. “But the policies he would have to carry out, a lot of us oppose them.”

In a statement issued later, he said, “Mr. Szubin’s role at the Treasury Department has required him to both promote and defend the Administration’s ill-conceived Iran nuclear agreement. I could not support his nomination today because of his participation in facilitating a deal that I believe is crippling to our national security.”

The deal between Iran and major powers eases international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

The banking panel was the only committee in the U.S. Senate that did not vote on any Obama nominee in 2015. About 14 are still outstanding.

Shelby said he did not know when the full Senate might vote on Szubin, who is currently acting undersecretary.

“The simple fact is that the Senate should have unanimously confirmed Mr. Szubin last spring instead of keeping him in limbo for almost an entire year,” Senator Sherrod Brown, the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement.

Besides Shelby, Republican Senators Mike Crapo, Tom Cotton, Dean Heller, Mark Kirk, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott and Pat Toomey opposed Szubin’s nomination. Republicans Bob Corker, David Vitter, Mike Rounds and Jerry Moran backed him.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry