The committee voted along party lines. Republicans praised Barr as well qualified, while Democrats who voted against him said they were concerned he might not make public the findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
A corporate lawyer who previously served as attorney general under Republican President George HW Bush in the early 1990s, Barr has been praised by politicians from both parties as someone who is deeply familiar with the workings of the Justice Department and does not owe his career to Trump.
He is expected to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled chamber.
If he wins the job, Barr’s independence could be put to the test when Mueller wraps up his investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia during the 2016 election.
The Republican president has repeatedly criticised the investigation as a “witch-hunt” and denies any collusion with Moscow.
Barr criticised the investigation last year in a memo to the Justice Department, but he told the committee in confirmation hearings three weeks ago that he would allow Mueller to conclude his work and said he would make as much of his findings public as possible.
But Barr has refused to promise that he will release the report in its entirety, citing Justice Department regulations that encourage prosecutors not to criticise people who they do not end up charging with criminal behaviour.
“We need a steady hand at the Department of Justice and I believe he would provide that steady hand,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Graham said that if Barr were to prevent release of a report by Mueller, he would support legislation being pushed by Senators Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, to require full transparency from the Special Counsel.
But Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said that, the “central issue for us, on the Attorney General of the United States, is will he be the people’s lawyer or the president’s? Will he put first the public’s interest or the president’s? At no time in our history has that issue been more central. We are already seeing dangerous threats to the rule of law.”
Additional reporting by William Roberts in Washington, DC.