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Bush tells Frist: Up-or-down vote on Bolton
McClatchy Newspapers


June 22, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush insisted to the Senate Republican leader Tuesday that he wants to continue the fight to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.

The president's call to carry the Bolton confirmation effort forward came three hours after the GOP leader, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, told reporters that the fight over Bolton had reached a dead end.

The decision to try again to win Senate confirmation of Bolton set aside for the moment the possibility that Bush could give Bolton a recess appointment that would allow him to serve as U.N. ambassador until January 2007.

Republicans said they would try to convince at least three additional Democrats to switch positions.

A switch of three Democrats would likely provide the 60 votes needed to move toward an up-or-down confirmation vote on Bolton. Three Democrats voted Monday to end the Democratic filibuster against Bolton, as did 51 of the 55 Senate Republicans.

A Bolton supporter, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., mentioned Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as possible Democratic voters for a cloture petition to end the filibuster.

But Feinstein showed no sign of moving into the Bolton camp.

"We appreciate any comments from Senator Allen about Senator Feinstein's interest in examining all sides of an issue before voting," said her spokesman, Howard Gantman. "However, Senator Feinstein is strongly opposed to the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador and voted twice against cloture because she believes that it was appropriate to provide an opportunity for other members to get the additional information being sought."

The Bolton battle, which looked finished Monday night, entered a new phase Tuesday after Frist and other Senate Republicans met with Bush for lunch at the White House.

When Frist emerged from the meeting, he declared: "The decision in talking to the president is that he strongly supports John Bolton, as we know, and he asked that we continue to work. And we'll continue to work."

Despite two unsuccessful Republican attempts to get the Senate to vote on Bolton's nomination, Frist said, "It's not dead."

Frist said that he would schedule another cloture vote - the third on Bolton - "in the coming days, possibly weeks."

Earlier in the day, Frist was clearly ready to abandon the Bolton fight after the Senate on Monday voted 54-38 to halt the Democratic filibuster. The 54 votes to invoke cloture were six short of the 60 needed when all senators are voting.

On the roll call, some 51 Republicans and three Democrats - Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas - voted for cloture.

Some 36 Democrats, independent James Jeffords of Vermont, and Ohio Republican George Voinovich voted against cloture.

However, there were three missing Republicans who previously voted for cloture: Norm Coleman of Minnesota, John Thune of South Dakota and Conrad Burns of Montana. There were also five absent Democrats, all regarded as Bolton opponents.

It was the second time in less than a month that cloture became a burning issue in the Senate. Just weeks ago, Republicans and Democrats cut a deal that would preserve the right to filibuster a judicial nominee, but allowed several of Bush's nominees for the bench to win confirmation.

The deal did not cover nominations of ambassadors or cabinet officers.

The Bolton nomination has become a major test of strength for the president, who six months into his second term does not want to be classified as a weakened lame duck, especially not with a possible Supreme Court nomination pending.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that Bush would make a mistake if he put Bolton into office through a recess appointment. The president could make such an appointment when the Senate recesses for the July 4 holiday.

If the president makes a recess appointment, Reid said, "We will be sending to the United Nations a flawed candidate, someone who's there on a questionable constitutional basis, because as we speak, in the courts they're looking at whether recess appointments are even constitutional."

Republicans noted that President Clinton made four recess ambassadorial appointments during his eight years in the White House.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said Democrats would oppose Bolton until the Bush administration provides the Senate documents it has requested concerning Bolton's activities as a State Department undersecretary.

At the State Department Tuesday, spokesman Adam Ereli said, "We have acted in good faith to meet the Senate's request for information." He said the department believes that "everybody has the information they need to make a decision on the nomination."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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