A Senate panel on Tuesday approved the nomination of Rep. Porter Goss (search), R-Fla., to head the CIA, overcoming Democrats' objections that Goss was too political for the job.

In a closed meeting, the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) voted 12 to 4, with three Democrats joining the committee's nine Republicans in approving the nomination and one Democrat making no recommendation.

Goss' nomination could go before the full Republican-led Senate as early as this week.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), D-W.Va., ranking Democrat on the committee, voted against Goss -- President Bush's choice to head the CIA (search) -- saying that while chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Goss had "repeatedly used intelligence issues for partisan purposes."

"While I appreciate his testimony and commitment to nonpartisanship if confirmed, I must vote on his record, not his promises," Rockefeller said. "I sincerely hope that Porter Goss proves my vote wrong and becomes an independent and exceptional" CIA director.

Goss served as House Intelligence chairman for nearly eight years. He would be only the second CIA director who served in Congress, after former president and House member George H.W. Bush (search).

Even before Bush nominated Goss in August, Democrats complained that Goss lacked the independence to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

Republican Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said Monday that Goss is independent, nonpartisan and aggressive -- and qualified for duty outside Congress.

"I am pleased the committee acted quickly and voted strongly in favor of the nomination of Porter Goss," Roberts said after Tuesday's meeting. "His experience in both oversight and as an intelligence officer makes him uniquely qualified to lead the intelligence community as we debate its critical reforms."

In addition to Rockefeller, Democrats who voted against the Goss nomination were Carl Levin of Michigan, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Democrats voting for the nomination were Dianne Feinstein of California, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, made no recommendation.