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Rollins is one step closer to being confirmed as the state’s next US attorney. Here’s what happens next

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, photographed in her office.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

A narrow US Senate vote Thursday put Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins closer to being confirmed as the next US attorney for Massachusetts.

After an animated debate over what has become a bitter partisan battle, the Senate voted 50-47 along party lines, with Rollins’s sponsors, Democratic Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, praising her innovative approach to prosecution, while Republican Senator Tom Cotton branded her a radical who wants to destroy the criminal justice system from within. Three Republicans did not vote. This was to pull the nomination out of committee, where a vote had deadlocked, and to move it to the Senate floor for a final vote likely in the coming weeks.

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Here’s what’s next for Rollins.

What does the Senate do next?

Rollins still needs a final vote by the full Senate to be confirmed. No date has been set yet for the confirmation vote. A Markey aide said it is likely that vote would have a similar result to Thursday’s, meaning the Senate would likely confirm her nomination.

If the three Republicans who did not vote oppose Rollins in the final vote, the tally would be 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris would have to cast the tie-breaker.

What happens if Rollins gets confirmed?

If and when the Senate confirms Rollins, she will be sworn in before starting her new role.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker would appoint her replacement for Suffolk district attorney with someone who would serve more than the year still left in Rollins’s term before the 2022 election.

Who would replace Rollins as Suffolk district attorney?

Rollins has touted her first assistant, Daniel Mulhern, as her successor, but other names are also circulating in political and legal communities.

Among potential candidates are Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who crossed party lines to support Baker; Linda Champion, who lost to Rollins in the 2018 Democratic primary; and Rahsaan Hall, an activist in the Black community who works for the ACLU of Massachusetts. All three have worked as Suffolk prosecutors.

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Criminal justice reform advocates are pushing for a candidate who will build on Rollins’s progressive legacy.

District attorneys can make suggestions to the governor about who should replace them, but Baker, who has clashed with Rollins on several occasions, has been noncommittal about whether he’d follow her recommendation.

With reports from Andrea Estes, Travis Andersen, Shelley Murphy, and Emma Platoff of the Globe staff.


Sahar Fatima can be reached at sahar.fatima@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @sahar_fatima.