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Senate panel approves White’s SEC nomination

Mary Jo White has served as US attorney in New York City, and is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Mary Jo White has served as US attorney in New York City, and is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel has approved Mary Jo White’s nomination to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and sent it along for a final vote.

The Senate Banking Committee approved White’s nomination on a 21-to-1 vote. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, was the only member to object.

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White is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate and become the first former prosecutor to lead the agency that oversees Wall Street.

The panel also advanced Richard Cordray’s nomination to continue as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. His nomination was approved on a 12-to-10 party-line vote with all Republican members opposing the nomination.

Republicans have also opposed the newly created agency and expressed interest in curtailing Cordray’s power. They may try to block a final vote on Cordray’s nomination.

White, who previously served as US attorney in Manhattan, told the panel last week that she would aggressively pursue enforcement of Wall Street and hold individuals accountable for misconduct. She also pledged to avoid potential conflicts of interest from her work over the past decade at a private law firm representing big banks and corporations.

In a statement after the vote, Brown said he doesn’t question White’s integrity or skill as an attorney.

‘‘But I do question Washington’s long-held bias towards Wall Street and its inability to find watchdogs outside of the very industry that they are meant to police,’’ he said.

‘‘Mary Jo White will have plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong. I hope she will,’’ Brown said.

Critics have complained that the SEC has failed to act aggressively to charge top executives at the biggest US banks who may have contributed to the crisis that set off the Great Recession.

White would replace Elisse Walter, who has been interim chairman since Mary Schapiro resigned in December.

Cordray’s nomination is less certain.

Obama used a recess appointment last year to circumvent Republicans and install Cordray as director of the consumer protection agency. The appointment expires at year’s end.

Republican senators reminded Cordray at his confirmation hearing that they want to see his powers as director of the agency curbed.

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