Senate Leader Plans No New Vote on Bolton Nomination


New York Times

June 21, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced Tuesday that he won't schedule another vote on John Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In so doing, the Tennessee Republican acknowledged there was nothing further he could do to break a Democratic stalemate with the Bush White House over Bolton.

''That's been exhausted,'' Frist said a day after Democrats again blocked a vote on the floor on Bolton's nomination. It was the second time the minority party in the Senate mustered enough votes to prevent Bolton's confirmation process from advancing.

Asked about Frist's remarks, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, ''We'll continue to work with the Senate leadership.''

Frist said that ''at this juncture, we have to go back to the president and see what the decision he's going to make is.''

He said scheduling a third vote now would be fruitless because Democrats will just keep stalling over information they are demanding from the White House.

''Whether it is politics or whatever their concerns are with, the goal posts constantly shifting. Bringing up another vote's not going to change anything,'' Frist said.

The White House earlier Tuesday has issued a new call for a vote on the nomination, accusing Democrats of being unwilling to compromise. ''They're only interested in blocking this nomination from moving forward,'' McClellan said at the time.

Frist's comments intensified pressure on President Bush to either withdraw Bolton's nomination, appoint him to the post without Senate approval when Congress is in recess, or give ground to Democrats. They are insisting that the administration release more records on Bolton's use of classified information when he was the State Department's top arms control official.

McClellan said he would not comment on breaking news from the podium in the White House press room, where he was talking to reporters.

Democrats have demanded that the administration check a list of 36 U.S. officials against names in secret national security intercepts that Bolton requested and received. They also want documents related to the preparation of testimony that Bolton planned to deliver -- but ultimately never gave -- in the House in July 2003 about Syria's weapons capability.

On Monday, Democrats made clear they weren't budging and most stood together to defeat a GOP effort to force a final vote on Bolton. The Senate voted 54-38, six shy of the total needed to advance his nomination. The vote represented an erosion in support from last month's failed Republican effort.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the lead Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a chief critic of Bolton, said White House Chief Staff Andrew Card had offered to provide some of the Syria information but that ''was not sufficient.'' Rather, Biden said Democrats want the administration to turn over all information they seek.

At a White House news conference Monday, the president left open the possibility of circumventing the Senate when he sidestepped a question on whether he would appoint Bolton to the ambassador's post when Congress leaves Washington for a July 4 recess.

''It's time for the Senate to give him an up-or-down vote. Now,'' the president said.

Some Republicans urged Bush to continue fighting for Bolton rather than appoint him on his own during the upcoming Senate break -- a so-called recess appointment -- for fear of sending a weakened nominee to the United Nations. ''That would not be in our best interest,'' said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Such an appointment would only last through the next one-year session of Congress -- in Bolton's case until January 2007.

Bush has said that Bolton, with a history of blunt talk and skepticism about the U.N.'s power, would be ideally suited to lead an effort to overhaul the world body's bureaucracy and make it more accountable. Critics say Bolton, who has been accused of mistreating subordinates, would hurt U.S. efforts to work with the U.N. and other countries.

Republicans argued that holding Monday's vote -- even if it didn't succeed -- would at least put Democrats on record again of delaying final confirmation. That could provide political cover for the White House for a recess appointment or to withdraw Bolton's nomination by letting the administration say it was forced to take those steps because of Democratic stonewalling.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who voted in May to advance the nomination, switched positions and urged Bush to consider another candidate, while only three Democrats crossed party lines.