Bolton Senate Vote Delayed

Article excerpt

Although Democrats succeeded May 26 in putting off a final vote, John R. Bolton appears close to winning Senate approval as the next U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. Bolton served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during President George W. Bush's first term and has undergone a bruising confirmation process based, in part, on his record in that post.

The Senate May 25 began consideration of Bolton's nomination. But Democrats succeeded in blocking a GOP attempt May 26 to cut off the debate and move to a final vote when Republicans fell just short of the required three-fifths majority for such a procedural move. Still, the 56-42 vote indicated that Republicans would likely have the simple majority needed to approve the nomination itself. A confirmation vote is expected soon after Congress returns June 7 from a week-long Memorial Day recess.

Democrats indicated that they only planned to hold up the vote temporarily as a protest against the Bush administration's failure to provide intelligence information they had sought.

"We're not here to filibuster Bolton," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "We're here to get more information on Bolton."

The same day the Senate with little ado confirmed Robert Joseph to succeed Bolton as the State Department's top arms control official. During Bush's first term, Joseph had served as a top arms control aide to Bush and secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the National security Council. He also held several diplomatic posts in the administration of Bush's father.

The latest delay on Bolton's nomination owed to Democratic frustration with the administration's resistance to provide additional information on a number of issues, particularly Bolton's interactions with intelligence agencies regarding Syria and requests Bolton made to the National security Agency (NSA) to reveal the identity of U.S. officials whose calls had been monitored.

Normally, such officials remain anonymous, although highlevel officials such as Bolton are entitled to make such requests. In a May 25 letter to his colleagues, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.), the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said he had seen nothing untoward in Bolton's requests for the NSA information.

But Rockefeller raised concerns about how Bolton used the information he received and called for further exploration. secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has opposed releasing the material, saying it could discourage open debate within the administration.

The Senate floor debate followed two Foreign Relations Committee hearings, a nearly month-long panel investigation, and two separate additional meetings of the panel, which still failed to give Bolton its endorsement. Bush nominated Bolton for the UN post in March. (see ACT, April 2005.)

Bolton and Intelligence Credibility

The Foreign Relations committee had first been set to vote on Bolton's nomination April 19, but in an effort to garner majority support, panel chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) delayed the vote for a month. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) had said he wanted more time to study Bolton's record after Democrats indicated they had new and damaging revelations about the nominee. (See ACT, May 2005.)

At the May 12 hearing, Voinovich said that he opposed Bolton's nomination, arguing that Bolton's tendency to speak bluntly could worsen the poor U.S. image abroad. Calling Bolton "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be," Voinovich said, "The United States can do better than John Bolton."

However, Voinovich said that "I'm not so arrogant to think that I should impose my own judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues. We owe it to the president to give Mr. Bolton an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

In the weeks since the panel first delayed its vote on Bolton's nomination, committee aides conducted 29 interviews with current and former U. …