WASHINGTON – The Senate approved the nomination of Rep. Porter Goss to be the new CIA director in a late Wednesday vote of 77 to 17.
Of the 17 "no" votes, four are members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, and Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Opponents to Goss' nomination said he has too many Republican ties for a job that requires independence.
The Florida Republican was already retiring after 16 years in the House, eight as head of that chamber's intelligence panel. A former CIA (search) and Army intelligence officer during the 1960s, Goss is only the second congressman to take over the helm of the CIA, following former President and House member George H.W. Bush (search).
In the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, four of the eight Democratic members voted against the nomination of Goss, the same who opposed his floor vote. All nine Republicans approved, and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, did not vote.
During six hours of debate Wednesday, Rockefeller held up large binders that he said contained remarks made by Goss that represented a series of attacks on the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. They included what Rockefeller called unfair accusations by Goss characterizing intelligence budget cuts in the 1990s as "deep and devastating."
Rockefeller said the law requires the director of central intelligence to provide timely and objective intelligence, independent of political considerations.
"Not surprisingly, one thing missing from Representative Goss' records are any public statements on intelligence critical of members of his own party or the administration," Rockefeller said. While Goss has promised not to be a partisan Republican as CIA director, "I must vote on his record. I cannot vote on his promise."
Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (search), R-Kan., rejected suggestions that Goss is too political and said he would be an appropriate intelligence chief during a tumultuous time. As Congress considers significant changes to the intelligence community's structure, Goss may be taking a job that soon won't exist, he noted. Congress is considering creating a more expansive job of national intelligence director (search), and Goss has been named as a possibility for that post should it be created.
"Porter Goss's confirmation ... represents perhaps the most important changing of the guard for our intelligence community since 1947," when Congress created the CIA, Roberts said. "He will be the first director of central intelligence in a new, and hopefully better, intelligence community."
In addition to serving as CIA director, Goss would take on the job's dual role as head of a loose confederation of 14 other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.
Bush nominated Goss in August to replace former CIA Director George Tenet (search), who caught many by surprise in June when he announced he'd resign after seven years, serving two administrations.
Should Democrat John Kerry be elected president, he would have the option to select a different CIA director.
FOX News' Julie Asher and The Associated Press contributed to this story.