Senate Republicans rejected Democrats' request yesterday for more time to review allegations against John R. Bolton, President Bush's choice to be United Nations ambassador, and they scheduled a Foreign Relations Committee vote today on the nomination.
Although two committee Republicans have not ruled out voting against Bolton, GOP and Democratic leaders said he appeared on track to win a straight party-line vote from the panel, which Republicans control 10 to 8. The nomination would then go to the full GOP-controlled Senate.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) told reporters that he had asked committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) for more time to weigh recent accusations against Bolton. Several of them mirror earlier complaints that Bolton, an undersecretary of state for arms control, had berated and threatened government subordinates who displeased him or challenged his claims about security threats posed by various countries, Dodd said.
Lugar said the committee questioned Bolton for a full day last week and listened to critics another day. "It is now time to make a decision," he said.
"The charge that [Bolton] improperly sought to influence intelligence conclusions is a serious one," Lugar said in a statement, "and it is reasonable to assess his conduct in these encounters. But no one should be surprised to find that episodes of conflict have occurred in this environment over the course of a four-year tenure."
Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.) have said they are troubled by some of the claims against Bolton but are inclined to support his nomination. Both men have suggested the alleged incidents are episodic rather than signs of a pattern of abusive behavior.
Dodd said, "There are four new allegations since the hearing a week or so ago, serious ones. Some of the same type again, [involving] people whose jobs were threatened." A new allegation, Dodd said, dates to Bolton's time at the Justice Department in the 1980s: "He threatened a woman who needed maternity leave for health reasons."
"There's a series of these things that are emerging here, a pattern," Dodd said. "Some of my colleagues have said, 'Look, I need to see a pattern.' I don't know how much more of a pattern you need."
Democratic committee sources said new responses from Bolton's office to follow-up questions provided little information but included some contradictions to his testimony. In the written responses, Bolton apparently acknowledged making 10 requests, over four years, for names of U.S. officials whose conversations with foreigners were monitored by the National Security Agency. Intelligence officials -- who would discuss the details only on the condition of anonymity -- said that number was unusually high for one person.
Bolton testified earlier that he recalled making such requests "on a couple of occasions, maybe a few more." In his follow-up answers to the committee yesterday, Bolton did not respond to a request for the names of those U.S. officials that he sought or which intercepts they appeared in, the sources said.
Bolton did not directly respond to a question about whether he tried to have a State Department lawyer taken off nonproliferation issues, congressional sources said. The sources said the allegation surfaced after they learned Bolton had asked State Department legal adviser William H. Taft IV to remove a lawyer who mistakenly thought Bolton was prepared to exempt a company in Louisiana accidentally penalized by sanctions against a Chinese firm.
A Philadelphia business also was caught up in sanctions Bolton imposed retroactively on companies that do business in the United States but that are also accused of doing business with Iran and North Korea, the sources said. Staff writer Dafna Linzer contributed to this report.