By LAWRENCE M. O'ROURKE
June 21, 2005
The vote to continue a Democratic filibuster against Bolton and thus to deny him a confirmation vote came after the White House hinted that the president might brush aside the Senate process and put Bolton in the diplomatic post through a rare recess appointment.
Some 54 senators voted to grant Bolton a confirmation vote, while 38 opposed it. Eight senators did not vote. The tally fell six short of the 60 yes votes needed if all senators were voting to shut down the filibuster Democrats launched a month ago.
Thirty-six of the Senate's 44 Democrats, along with Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio and independent James Jeffords of Vermont voted to reject Bush's demand that the Senate grant Bolton an immediate up-or-down vote on his nomination to one of the nation's most visible diplomatic posts.
Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana joined 51 of the Senate's 55 Republicans in voting to end the filibuster.
While Republicans can try again to win Bolton's confirmation, the Senate vote showed, perhaps definitively, that the up-or-down vote sought by Bush might be a long time coming, if at all.
The vote outcome leaves Bush with difficult choices. If he went ahead with the recess appointment, he would likely raise the tension between himself and Senate Democrats.
But if the president were to withdraw the Bolton nomination, he could display a weakened lame-duck control over GOP forces on Capitol Hill.
On the road ahead for the president on Capitol Hill are such potential tough votes as overhaul of Social Security and possibly the nomination of a Supreme Court justice.
"The president will have to make a decision whether he wants to send this flawed candidate to the United Nations," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Before Monday's vote, Democrats contended that they would drop their filibuster and go ahead with a confirmation vote if the White House turned over State Department documents bearing on Bolton's performance as the department's No. 3 official.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said the documents bear on Bolton's activities on Syria, weapons of mass destruction and the identification of 19 State Department officials whose telephone calls were intercepted.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said that Senate Democrats had gathered substantial amounts of material to make their case against Bolton. The vote to continue the filibuster, Frist said, was "doing harm to our country."
But Frist has quietly urged the White House to release the documents, GOP aides said, noting that the majority leader has repeatedly warned that Bolton may be blocked unless the White House make additional concessions.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a leader of the Democratic opposition to Bolton, pointed out that Bolton was the first U.N. ambassador nominee since 1945 to face significant possibility of rejection by the Senate.
While Democrats said they hoped that the next step would be a White House decision to withdraw Bolton's nomination, Bush and his top aides suggested that their next step might be an unusual recess appointment.
The president's first opportunity to do that would be the 10-day recess around July 4. Such a move by Bush would allow Bolton to serve as U.N. ambassador until January 2007.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that Bush could place Bolton in the U.N. post as a recess appointment. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that it had become clear that Democratic leaders were determined to block Bolton.
"It is critical that we get him in place," McClellan said.
At a White House news conference, the president was noncommittal about the possibility of using a recess appointment.
The president added that he wants Bolton at the United Nations because "the U.N. needs reform and I thought it made sense to send a reformer to the United Nations."
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