The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general on Thursday. (Reuters)

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to confirm U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general, paving the way for her likely confirmation by the full Senate, which is expected to vote on her nomination in the next week or two.

By a vote of 12 to 8, the committee approved the nomination of Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as the first African American woman to take the reins of the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in September that he would step down as soon as the Senate approved a new nominee.

Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted with the committee’s nine Democrats to approve Lynch’s nomination. Several Republicans on the committee, including Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and John Cornyn (Tex.), said they would oppose the nomination because of President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“I supported advancing Loretta Lynch’s nomination to the floor today because her record of service over several decades shows that she is well-qualified to be attorney general,” Hatch said. “There is good reason to believe that Ms. Lynch will be more independent than the current attorney general and make strides toward recommitting the department to the rule of law.”

Hatch said that Lynch’s record “does not include anything sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of confirmation.”

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Loretta Lynch during her confirmation hearing for the role of U.S. attorney general on Jan. 28, 2015. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Senate Democrats have expressed outrage that Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 110 days, longer than any other attorney general nominee in recent history.

“Political fights over immigration should not hold up Loretta Lynch, DHS funding or anything else,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “But the hard right, upset over the president’s immigration policies, is grasping at straws to have a fight, any fight, over immigration. Loretta Lynch, a supremely qualified nominee for a vital national security and law enforcement post, should never have been pulled into the fray.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and other Republicans have said they will oppose Lynch’s nomination on the Senate floor and have called on all Republicans to join them, partly because she defended Obama’s action on immigration during her Senate confirmation hearing.

“The answers Ms. Lynch gave in this hearing room, in my judgment, render her unsuitable for the position of chief law enforcement official,” Cruz said.

A vote on the Senate floor could come as early as next week. With the change in Senate rules in 2013, only a simple majority is needed to stop a Republican filibuster and confirm Lynch. Assuming all Democrats vote in her favor, she needs the support of only four Republicans on the Senate floor to secure a majority.