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Democrats Block Vote On Bolton
But Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat, said it would not, reiterating his party's demand for all the intelligence intercepts Bolton had requested as well, Senate sources said.
In a floor speech shortly before the vote, Biden said: "It is totally unacceptable for the president of the United States . . . to try to dictate to the Senate how he, the president, thinks the Senate should proceed. . . . It is somewhat presumptuous, to say the least."
Some White House officials privately say Republicans erred by not pushing for Bolton's final vote before a bipartisan deal was struck in late May regarding filibusters of judicial nominees. Before that accord was reached, the officials said, Democrats were more susceptible to accusations that they were indiscriminately using parliamentary tactics to obstruct Bush's nominees.
Recess appointments allow a president to temporarily seat a nominee while Congress is out of session. They invariably ignite charges of partisan abuse, and Democrats complained bitterly when Bush used recess appointments to place nominees on federal courts in his first term.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a Bolton supporter, said a recess appointment "would weaken not only Mr. Bolton but also the United States" because the international community would see the new ambassador as lacking bipartisan support.
Unlike judges, who receive lifetime appointments if confirmed by the Senate, Bolton presumably would leave the United Nations when Bush's term ends in January 2009 if the Senate were to confirm him. A recess appointment would permit him to hold the post through 2006, when the 109th Congress adjourns.
Bush strategists believe the president may benefit from the fight because most Americans distrust the United Nations and want changes. GOP strategists do not see any downside to the appointment other than that Democrats will protest the recess appointment and redouble efforts for the courts to intervene to prevent the practice.
"The American people know why I nominated him, because the U.N. needs reform, and I thought it made sense to send a reformer to the United Nations," Bush told reporters before the vote. "The U.N. is an important organization, and the American people . . . understand how important it is when the U.N. is reformed and is held to account."
Staff writer Dafna Linzer contributed to this report.