By mlevine@politico.com (Marianne LeVine)

The Senate advanced William Barr’s nomination to be attorney general on a key procedural vote Tuesday, paving the way for his confirmation later this week.

The Senate agreed to end debate on the appointment on a 55-44 vote, with three Democrats joining nearly every Republican in voting for Barr.

Although Barr is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in the coming days, he came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearing from Senate Democrats for how he’d handle special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and whether Barr would make public Mueller’s final report.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) praised Barr following the Senate vote and said he was confident the attorney general nominee would allow Mueller to finish his investigation without political interference. Graham predicted that when it came to Mueller’s final report, Barr will “err on the side of transparency.”

“When it comes to Bill Barr, I can only tell my Democratic colleagues there is nobody better that I know to recommend to you,” he said. “This is as good as it gets on our side.”

Democrats also blasted Barr for a memo he wrote last year to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president and called it “fatally misconceived.”

Although Tuesday’s vote was largely along party lines, Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted for Barr.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to vote against him. Paul told POLITICO Monday he opposed Barr’s nomination because of concern Barr would not sufficiently safeguard privacy rights.

A simple majority is required for confirmation. Senate approval would give Barr a second stint as attorney general; he also led the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.

Trump nominated Barr to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had angered the president by recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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