Washington (CNN) - Thomas Perez, President Obama's nominee to be labor secretary, was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (H.E.L.P) committee on Thursday on a straight party line vote.
Perez has come under heavy fire from Republicans for his actions when he headed the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice earlier in the Obama administration.
The controversy surrounding Perez's nomination originates from Perez's role in a decision by the Justice Department not to become involved in a whistleblower case in Minnesota. Republican leaders charge the Justice Department decided not to so in order to persuade a St. Paul municipality to stop its challenge against housing discrimination guidelines being taken up by the Supreme Court.
Last week, GOP Senators blocked the committee vote by invoking a rarely used "rule to delay" procedural tactic, which angered Senate Democrats.
H.E.L.P. committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said in a statement after the vote, "I am deeply disappointed that, after additional time was granted as a matter of courtesy, members of the Republican Caucus have now used procedural roadblocks to delay committee consideration of the president's Cabinet choice for secretary of labor, the eminently qualified Thomas Perez."
Senate Republicans remain steadfast in their decision to block Perez's nomination, saying he still hasn't fulfilled their request for specific documents.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander criticized Perez on Thursday following the Senate committee's approval vote saying, "In my written questions to Mr. Perez following his confirmation hearing I asked him specific questions about whether he personally solicited he support for his nomination from companies he might regulate if her were to be the Secretary. He has yet to provide a direct answer to that simple question. This is particularly concerning in light of the current abuses of power we are seeing in this administration of the same sort."
Democratic support for Perez remains strong, despite criticisms by Senate Republicans of his transparency.
Democratic Senator Sen. Barbara Mikulski said Thursday morning following the vote, "I just want to say this – we would have a fine nominee. First of all he has a compelling personal narrative. The second generation of immigrant families he brings all those wonderful values that new immigrants do… He actually believes in America and he actually believes in America's promise and a Department of Labor would be part of the opportunity ladder to help people be middle class, to either stay there or to do better."
At 51, Perez is so far the only Latino nominated to Obama's second-term Cabinet. Now that Perez is voted out of committee, the full Senate must consider his nomination, which may be scheduled next week. A GOP filibuster, which would require 60 votes to break, appears likely.
CNN's Sara Fischer contribute to this report