Bolton Sent to Full Senate; but Panel Does Not Endorse Bush Pick

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday voted to send John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations to the Senate floor but without the customary endorsement, dealing a public blow to President Bush but giving him time to try to rescue his pick.

The committee voted 10-8 to "report the nomination without recommendation," with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposing it.

The key vote was Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, who opposes Mr. Bolton but didn't want to bottle up Mr. Bush's pick in committee and prevent a full Senate vote.

"After hours of deliberation, telephone calls, personal conversations, reading hundreds of pages of transcripts and asking for guidance from above, I have come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton," said Mr. Voinovich, although he added that he is "not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment" on the entire Senate by blocking the nomination.

A 9-9 tie vote would have caused the nomination to fail.

"It doesn't appear that Mr. Bolton has the confidence of the majority of this committee," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the top Democrat on the panel, who said Mr. Bush should take notice.

But the administration and its allies stepped up their advocacy yesterday afternoon, and White House press secretary Scott McClellan predicted success on the Senate floor.

"We're confident that the Senate will move forward and confirm his nomination when it reaches the floor," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's chief of staff said there is no schedule for a floor vote, but he expects that it will be before the Memorial Day recess.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, made a new attempt to derail the Bolton nomination. Spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz told reporters that her boss "put a hold on the nomination" late in the afternoon, after the panel vote.

The spokeswoman did not say how long Mrs. Boxer might use the measure, which prevents Mr. Bolton's nomination from being raised on the Senate floor.

Democrats also could decide to initiate a filibuster - a decision they said they haven't reached.

Mr. Voinovich's strong statement of opposition seemed to surprise Democrats.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, called it "a senatorial moment," and Mr. Biden, who spoke after Mr. Voinovich, said there wasn't much to add.

"Quite frankly, much of what I was going to say was going to be redundant - and not as elegant - as what we just heard," said Mr. Biden, although he did deliver a half-hour critique both of Mr. Bolton's history and of the administration for blocking access to documents during the committee's investigation. …