Updated 1:45 p.m.
The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of William Baer to lead the Justice Department's Antitrust Division on a 12-5 vote.
The opposition from some Republicans came less than two months after a hearing in which Baer, who heads Arnold & Porter's antitrust practice in Washington, received a warm reception from senators of both parties.
Earlier this week, however, a spokeswoman for Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said some Republicans "have concerns with issues that were brought forward in the standard background investigation," and that they may hold a secret meeting to discuss their concerns.
Before today's vote, Republicans asked for that closed session. The private meeting lasted 15 minutes, after which, without public debate, they voted by roll call.
Committee members of both parties are keeping secret what issues may have been raised, and why some senators decided to oppose Baer.
Grassley, the committee's ranking minority member, voted no because of the issue that was discovered in the background investigation, a spokeswoman said. But the actual issue in question remains a closely guarded secret among senators and their staffs. Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) declined to comment on the issue. A message left for Baer at his office was not immediately returned.
"I have expressed in closed session the reasons for my opposition to William Baer, nominated to be Assistant Attorney General to head the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice," Grassley wrote in a statement submitted for the record. "I can’t repeat my reasons here in open session, but I encourage a No vote on this nominee."
Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voted for Baer, as did all the Democrats present. In addition to Grassley, "no" votes came from Republican senators John Cornyn (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.). Baer's nomination now awaits action on the Senate floor.
At the time of his July hearing, Baer had already submitted thousands of pages of information as part of his confirmation packet -- mostly news articles in which he was quoted from as far back as 1991.
Every nominee also goes through an FBI background check, which reviews the nominee's life back to age 18 and can pick up on details of private lives not caught during the White House vetting process.