The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Russell Vought as deputy White House budget chief by a 50-49 vote after months of keeping the nomination in limbo.
Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), were not present for the vote.
As the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Vought will serve as the right-hand man to Director Mick Mulvaney.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) held up the nomination for months over demands for more disaster relief funding for his state, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey last year.
Vought’s nomination was marred by criticism over controversial religious comments he’d made in 2016. In a theological blog post for his alma mater, Wheaton College, Vought argued that Muslims “do not know God.”
“Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned,” he wrote at the time.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Vought’s comments raised concern as to whether he would be able to uphold the value of nondiscrimination in a role that influences how federal money is spent.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) questioned Vought in a June hearing, asking if he believed all non-Christians were condemned. Sanders, who is Jewish, specifically asked if Jews were also condemned in Vought’s religious view.
Sanders faced pushback on his line of questioning from critics, who alleged that his questioning could amount to a religious test.