Bolton May Not Return As U.N. Envoy
Friday, November 10, 2006
Key lawmakers said yesterday they would block the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, all but killing chances for him to remain in the post past December.
For nearly 20 months, President Bush has tried, unsuccessfully, to get Bolton confirmed in a job he has held since August 2005. Bolton then received a recess appointment after not getting enough support in the Senate.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and its presumed chairman when the Democrats take control of the Senate in January, said yesterday that Bolton's nomination is "going nowhere."
"I see no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again in the Foreign Relations Committee because, regardless of what happens there, he is unlikely to be considered by the full Senate," Biden said in a statement.
The White House had hoped Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), a moderate Republican who earlier raised questions about Bolton and the administration's policies in the Middle East, would support Bolton after the election. But Chafee lost his seat Tuesday.
"On Tuesday, the American people sent a clear message of dissatisfaction with the foreign policy approach of the Bush administration," Chafee said in a statement. "To confirm Mr. Bolton to the position of U.N. ambassador would fly in the face of the clear consensus of the country that a new direction is called for." Chafee said Bolton lacks the "collaborative approach" needed to make the United States "the strongest country in a peaceful world."
Without Chafee's support, Republicans on the committee do not have enough votes to recommend Bolton's confirmation.
Bolton's nomination, in early spring of 2005, fell apart within weeks. The Senate committee hearings were dominated by heated testimony from former colleagues and several intelligence officials; they described Bolton as a bully who pressured analysts, cherry-picked intelligence and hid information from the secretary of state. The committee did not support the nomination but agreed to send it to the full Senate for consideration.
Several Republicans then joined with Democrats to block a vote on the nomination until the White House turned over documents relating to Bolton's tenure as undersecretary of state for arms control during Bush's first term. The White House refused, insisting that Bolton deserved a vote by the full Senate.
Bolton's recess appointment is set to expire at the end of December, when the current Congress goes out of session. With only a few months remaining, the White House tried again to get Bolton confirmed during the summer. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee came to the administration's aid, lobbying heavily for Bolton's nomination. It persuaded several Democrats to support Bolton but the nomination was snagged by Chafee.
White House spokesman Tony Snow would not predict yesterday whether Bolton would get confirmed or say what the White House's contingency plans are if the nomination falls through again. "This is something that we think is important, that he stay there," Snow told reporters.
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley urged senators to judge Bolton solely on his performance at the United Nations over the past year. "I would hope that people would step back, take a look at John's record up there, and reach the judgment that the president has reached -- that he does a terrific job for the American people."
In a statement yesterday, Bush named five congressional priorities he hopes will be tackled before the end of the year. Bolton was not on the list.
Yesterday, a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration had explored options for keeping Bolton at the United Nations. A second recess appointment is not possible, but officials considered making Bolton an "acting ambassador." But the official, who would discuss internal deliberations only on the condition of anonymity, said none of the options is appealing, especially given the strong opposition shown by the Democrats, who are poised to take over Congress.
If there is no confirmation, "we assume he'll probably resign," the official said. Several administration officials speculated that Zalmay Khalilzad, the ambassador to Iraq, could be a candidate to replace Bolton.