Senate committee approves Trump intelligence nominee Coats
Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) stops to speak to the news media after a meeting at Trump Tower with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York, U.S., November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of President Donald Trump's nominee to be director of national intelligence, former Republican Senator Dan Coats, sending his nomination to the Senate floor.

The vote, which took place in a closed hearing, was 13-2, the committee said. Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Kamala Harris were the only two members to vote no.

Coats must still be confirmed by the full Senate to be the top U.S. intelligence official. The popular former lawmaker, who also served as ambassador to Germany, is expected to be confirmed easily.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oversee all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and improve communications among them.

Coats, 73, replaces James Clapper, who retired as President Barack Obama left office.

Coats was a member of the Senate intelligence panel until he retired from the Senate at the end of last year. He pledged during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 28 to support a thorough investigation of any Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Wyden, one of the Senate's leading privacy advocates, said he voted against his former colleague because he felt that the office of the Director of National Intelligence had not provided the committee with enough information about how many Americans' communication records have been subjected to government surveillance.

"Given that there has not been a firm commitment to deliver this critical information, I cannot support any DNI nominee without that material," Wyden said in a statement.

Harris said that after consideration of Coats' record on a range of issues, she concluded she could not support his nomination.

Senators Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, and Mark Warner, its top Democrat, both said they were pleased the committee had backed Coats.

Warner said he was confident that Coats, as a former committee member, had respect for the panel's oversight responsibilities.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)