By Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate cleared a procedural hurdle on Tuesday to confirming New York lawyer Sharon Bowen as a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Senators voted 50-44 to move forward with President Barack Obama's choice of Bowen for a seat on the commission, which regulates the swaps industry. The Senate still must hold a final confirmation vote, which could come as soon as this afternoon.
Two other nominees to the CFTC, Treasury official Timothy Massad and Chris Giancarlo, a senior official at derivatives broker GFI in New York, were approved by a Senate panel but have not yet been considered by the full body.
Bowen was the only choice considered controversial. That is because she also heads the Securities Investor Protection Corp (SIPC), which is in a legal fight related to the $7 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Allen Stanford, who is now serving a 110-year prison sentence.
The SIPC has denied a request from victims of the scheme for compensation, prompting a battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which wanted the group to pay the victims.
"I can tell you quite frankly she does not deserve any promotion because she has not successfully safeguarded consumers," Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, said of Bowen before the vote on Tuesday.
Democrats have changed Senate rules to make it easier to override Republican objections and push forward Obama's nominees for government positions. It now only takes a simple majority rather than the 60 votes that were previously needed.
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Susan Heavey and Tom Brown)