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Committee sends Bolton vote to Senate
McClatchy Newspapers


May 13, 2005

Washington - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to the Senate floor Thursday, but deleted a recommendation that he be confirmed.

After a grueling and bitter five-hour hearing, the committee voted along party lines, 10 Republicans for and eight Democrats against, for the unusual motion that fell short of what the White House fought to achieve.

The rare decision to delete a recommendation that Bolton be confirmed reluctantly was made by GOP leaders after Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio announced he would not vote to confirm Bolton.

The senator noted that U.S. officials who served Republican presidents and others have described Bolton as a bully who abused subordinates in the State Department and CIA and created an "atmosphere of intimidation" in his office.

"I have come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton," at the United Nations, Voinovich told the committee. He said he had reached his decision after studying hundreds of pages of testimony and meeting twice with Bolton.

Voinovich suggested that Republican leaders drop a proposed recommendation that Bolton be confirmed. But he said Bolton was entitled to an "up or down" vote by the Senate.

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., had little choice but to accept Voinovich's proposal. A no vote by Voinovich would have made the vote on Bolton 9-9, certainly stalling the nomination and possibly killing it.

In a hallway meeting with reporters, Voinovich made clear that he yielded to appeals by Bush and Republican leaders who contended that the defeat of Bolton, an undersecretary of state, would be a significant and embarrassing setback to the president's political and foreign policy leadership less than halfway through the first year of Bush's second White House term.

Earlier in the day, the White House again defended Bolton and his nomination.

"John Bolton is a strong voice for reform at a time when the United Nations is beginning efforts to move forward on reform," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "He is exactly the kind of person we need at the United Nations. He brings a lot of unique qualifications to the position, and a great amount of experience and passion. And sometimes a little bluntness, but the president believes that's exactly what is needed at the United Nations during this time of reform."

Before the vote was taken, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's ranking Democrat, urged that the White House withdraw the nomination. Biden also charged that Bolton did not told the truth under oath to senators about his contacts with intelligence analysts and others and accused the State Department of withholding documents that might have confirmed Bolton's misconduct.

Among Bolton's more aggressive advocates on the committee were Republican Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and George Allen of Virginia.

They based their argument on Bush's election last November to a second four-year term.

"The president has the right to appoint members of his team," Coleman said.

Coleman said that Bolton would bring a strong presence to U.S. efforts to reform the United Nations.

"John Bolton represents our best chance to shape a credible, effective world body," he said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., shot back that senators also were elected last fall and they should not abdicate their duty to reject nominees they find unsuitable.

"If this comes to the floor, we're going to have a fight," Boxer warned. But Democrats did not say if they would launch a filibuster against Bolton.

It seems unlikely Democrats will get their way, Senate GOP and Democratic aides said, noting that Bolton needs only 51 votes for confirmation. Republicans have an effective 55-45 majority.

But the Bolton nomination could be sidetracked if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., moves next week to end the possibility of filibusters against judicial nominees, through the parliamentary device dubbed "the nuclear option." Such a move by Frist could paralyze the Senate, allowing little time for Frist to call up Bolton's nomination.

The die was cast for the Bolton nomination to go forward without a favorable recommendation when Voinovich, speaking in a soft voice in a hushed hearing room, delivered a blistering critique of the nominee.

As senators sat frozen, Voinovich described Bolton as a "poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

Noting the rise of anti-Americanism around the globe, Voinovich said the "world needs an American ambassador to the United Nations who will show that the United States has respect for other countries and intermediary organizations, that we are team players and consensus builders.

"It is my concern that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about U.S. intentions," he said.

Putting Bolton in at the United Nations would tell the world that "only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly" with other nations, Voinovich said.

To assertions by the White House and other Bolton supporters that a vote against Bolton was a vote against U.N. reform, Voinovich responded with a one-word characterization: "nonsense."

The senator said he reached his decision despite a private message to him by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Bolton "would be closely supervised" in his U.N. duties.

Voinovich told reporters outside the hearing room that he expects to oppose Bolton when the nomination comes up for a vote in the Senate, and he said he might be able to persuade other Republicans to join the opposition.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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