G.O.P. Senator Sends Letter to Colleagues Opposing Bolton

By DOUGLAS JEHL

New York Times

May 24, 2005

WASHINGTON, May 24 - The Ohio Republican whose opposition to John R. Bolton as United Nations ambassador nearly stalled his nomination in committee took a new swipe at him today, circulating a letter urging colleagues to vote against Mr. Bolton when his name reaches the Senate floor, possibly this week.

The letter from Senator George R. Voinovich was sent to all senators, but it was aimed particularly at fellow Republicans in a chamber in which the party holds a 55-44 majority (with one independent). At least five Republicans would have to join Mr. Voinovich in opposing Mr. Bolton if the nomination were to be defeated.

In the letter, Mr. Voinovich said that while he had been "hesitant to push my views on my colleagues" during his years in the Senate, he felt "compelled to share my deep concerns" about Mr. Bolton's nomination.

"In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation's ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations," Mr. Voinovich wrote. He urged colleagues to "put aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation's best interests guide us."

The White House remains strongly in favor of Mr. Bolton's nomination, and it is unusual for a Republican to break ranks so publicly by circulating a letter opposed to a Republican president's agenda. A copy of Mr. Voinovich's letter, dated May 23 but not circulated until Tuesday, was provided by a Senate Democratic aide opposed to Mr. Bolton.

The Senate's Republican leaders signaled today that they would try to push for a vote on Mr. Bolton by the end of the week. Senate Democrats have strongly opposed the nomination, and at a lunchtime meeting today, Democratic leaders were weighing possible moves to defeat the nomination, or to use procedural moves to delay or prevent a Senate vote.

It is not clear whether any Republicans might join Mr. Voinovich in breaking ranks with the White House, which has strongly supported Mr. Bolton's nomination despite strong opposition from many critics, including senior officials who worked with Mr. Bolton at the State Department during President Bush's first term.

Among the 10 Republicans on the Senate committee, 3 joined Mr. Voinovich in expressing reservations about Mr. Bolton's nomination. In the face of strong Democratic opposition, the Republicans on the panel agreed only to send the nomination to the full Senate without an endorsement, an unusual move.

Today, however, spokesmen for two of those Republicans, Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, said their bosses expected to vote in favor of Mr. Bolton when his name came before the full Senate. A spokeswoman for the third, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the senator had told reporters from her home state that she was "likely to support Bolton's nomination on the floor."

A spokesman for another Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said this afternoon that Mr. Thune "hasn't made any decisions" about Mr. Bolton's nomination.

One Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, has sought to block a Senate vote on Mr. Bolton, saying that she would oppose any vote until the State Department provided documents related to the nomination that the department had so far refused to hand over. This afternoon, however, a spokeswoman for Ms. Boxer said that she had decided to lift a hold on Mr. Bolton's nomination. Ms. Boxer's spokeswoman said she would join with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware in agreeing to a Republican plan to move toward a vote on Mr. Bolton after allowing up to 40 hours of debate.

It appears unlikely that any Senate Democrat will try to use a filibuster to block a vote, Senate Democratic officials said.

Mr. Voinovich, a former mayor of Cleveland and governor of Ohio, previously described his decision to oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination as one that was based on conscience. In his letter to colleagues, he repeated a statement made earlier this month to the Foreign Relations Committee, in which he questioned whether Mr. Bolton would "have the character, leadership, interpersonal skills, self-discipline, common decency and understanding of the chain of command to lead his team to victory."