Bolton's Nomination Revives After Senator Changes Mind
Saturday, July 22, 2006
One senator's change of heart about John R. Bolton has rekindled efforts to win Senate confirmation for the interim U.N. ambassador, as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) yesterday called for "swift action" on the nomination.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing next week on Bolton, a sharp-tongued conservative whose aggressive style has earned him enemies as well as fans. On Thursday, Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he no longer objects to confirming Bolton to the U.N. job for the remainder of the Bush administration.
Voinovich played a pivotal role last year by opposing Bolton, sending the nomination to the Senate floor without the committee's blessing. Democrats, who hold 44 of the chamber's 100 seats, twice used filibusters to prevent confirmation votes from being held, and President Bush gave Bolton the ambassadorship temporarily with a recess appointment last August.
The appointment expires this fall, and Bolton will have to step down unless the Senate confirms him to the position. Writing in The Washington Post on Thursday, Voinovich said that Bolton has proven himself. "In recent weeks I have watched him react to the challenges involving North Korea, Iran and now the Middle East, speaking on behalf of the United States," the senator wrote.
GOP leaders quickly scheduled the new hearing and called for Bolton's prompt confirmation. "Ambassador Bolton has proven to be a strong advocate on behalf of America's interests, and he deserves to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate," said Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "The vitally important matters confronting the United Nations Security Council -- such as Iran, Darfur, North Korea and Israel's efforts to combat terrorism -- demand steadfast action and leadership. John Bolton is the right man for this job."
Bolton stirred controversy from the moment Bush nominated him on March 8, 2005. Critics cited his numerous disparaging remarks about the United Nations, and some State Department officials accused him of berating career officials and analysts who challenged his views when he worked there. They also said Bolton had selectively chosen intelligence to support his assertions about the dangers posed by Cuba and other nations.
Bolton disputed the allegations in whole or part, but when Voinovich announced his opposition, Republicans could not find the 60 votes needed to end debate and force a confirmation vote.
Senate Democrats have not decided whether to try to filibuster Bolton's nomination again, top Senate aides said yesterday, although some party leaders made their opposition clear.
"Instead of wasting time and playing politics, the administration should nominate someone else to take Mr. Bolton's place," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the Foreign Relations Committee's ranking Democrat. Biden said he will again demand to see documents that the administration withheld last year, including "National Security Agency intercepts Mr. Bolton asked to see in order to learn the identity of American citizens referenced in the intercepts."
"Unless the administration provides the Senate with the documents it is entitled to see," Biden said, Bolton "should not get a [confirmation] vote."
Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada told reporters this week that he will consult with colleagues before deciding how vigorously to oppose the nomination. He said Bolton "has done nothing to set himself out as somebody that should be approved by the Senate."