By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate committee on Thursday voted narrowly in favor of President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Judiciary Committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 10-8 along party lines to move forward the nomination of Todd Jones to head the agency, known as the ATF, which plays a key role in regulating guns.
Jones is currently the acting director of the bureau. The ATF has not had a Senate-confirmed director for seven years in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association.
After Thursday's vote, the nomination still needs to be approved by the full Senate before Jones can be confirmed.
Obama made Jones' confirmation a priority following the December 2012 shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Republicans, led by Senator Charles Grassley, objected to voting on the nomination, citing an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel.
The probe focuses on a complaint against Jones made by a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota alleging that Jones, who was the U.S. attorney there from 1998 to 2001 and from 2009 to 2011, had a poor management record.
The prosecutor later claimed Jones disciplined him in retaliation for making the claims.
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Philip Barbara)