The committee's top Democrat, Sen.
While many Democrats in the Senate say they oppose Haspel's nomination because of her supervision of the harsh interrogation techniques used in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the 30-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency won support from Virginia's Mark Warner, the intelligence panel's top Democrat.
But in several sharp exchanges with Democratic senators, she did not disavow the previous program, from 2002 to 2008, in which she took part. "Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral - like a return to torture". Two red-state Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, already announced they will back her.
The committee voted 10 to 5 to in favor of her nomination.
The four Democrats supporting Haspel are: Warner, Manchin, Joe Donnelly of IN, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
At her hearing before the Senate intelligence committee last Wednesday, Haspel said she would not initiate any new detention and interrogation program as CIA director.
Haspel's nominee has sparked a fresh debate over brutal interrogation practices. In November, McCain convinced Manchin to vote against Steven Bradbury to become the general counsel of the Department of Transportation because of his role in crafting the memos that authorized the CIA's use of torture in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., who, believing Haspel had been "more forthcoming" in private meetings, gave her a second chance to say more clearly and in writing that "the enhanced interrogation program is not one the Central Intelligence Agency should have undertaken" and that "the United States must be an example to the rest of the world".
Haspel's letter came after Republican Sen. "Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying".
But in a letter to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, she admitted that the CIA torture program never should have existed in the first place, writing, "While I won't condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world".
When Haspel's nomination reaches the floor of the Senate for a full vote, she will likely prevail although the margin will be narrow.
The only Senate Republicans who are not expected to vote for her are Kentucky's Rand Paul and Arizona's John McCain, who is battling cancer.
Shortly afterward, a White House official joked in an internal staff meeting that McCain was "dying anyway" and thus his opinion on Haspel didn't matter.
"However, Ms. Haspel explained to me that the agency should not have employed such tactics in the past and has assured me that it will not do so in the future", Heitkamp added in her statement. John McCain, R-Ariz., who endured years of it as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who authored the Senate's definitive report on the CIA's practices - to declare Haspel unconfirmable.