May 19 (UPI) -- The Senate intelligence committee voted Tuesday to approve President Donald Trump's nominee to take over as national intelligence director.
The panel voted 8-7 to approve Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas to the nation's top intelligence post. His nomination will next receive a full Senate vote.
Ratcliffe, 54, has represented Texas's 4th District since 2015 and has been a member of the House intelligence committee. He is a former U.S. attorney, federal terrorism prosecutor and mayor of Heath, Texas.
The director of national intelligence leads inter-agency cooperation between 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.
Ratcliffe said earlier this month his primary focus is China and the origins of the coronavirus outbreak. He also said he won't allow politics to interfere with his duties as top U.S. intelligence chief.
Ratcliffe would be the first permanent director of national intelligence since Dan Coats resigned last July.
Tuesday's vote occurred under new leadership on the Senate intelligence committee. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is now acting chairman after replacing Sen. Richard Burr, who resigned last week amid an FBI investigation into whether he broke the law when he sold off shares of stock early during the coronavirus crisis.