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The White House, Congress Continue to Battle over Bolton for U.N. Ambassador

June 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: John Bolton’s chances of becoming U.N. ambassador hung in the balance tonight as Senate Democrats once again threw a procedural block in front of his nomination. Majority Leader Bill Frist needed at least 60 votes to end debate and force an up-or-down, simple majority vote on the troubled nominee. But the Bolton nomination fell far short.

SPOKESPERSON: The motion is not agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats now have blocked Bolton twice in the last month because, they say, of the Bush administration’s refusal to supply materials documenting Bolton’s use of classified intelligence while at the State Department. Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: The fact that the President of the United States in this case says he does not believe that the information that we seek is relevant to our fulfilling our constitutional responsibility is somewhat presumptuous, to say the least. I am aware, as we all are, on both sides of the aisle, of the sometimes admirable but most time excessive obsession with secrecy on the part of this administration. But notwithstanding that, Mr. President, we should not forfeit our responsibility to accommodate that obsession.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats did offer to clear Bolton for a final vote if the administration released the names of U.S. officials whose secret communications were intercepted by the National Security Agency and later passed on to Bolton at his request. Republicans argued that no longer should be an issue because senior members of the Intelligence Committee from both parties were briefed on the intercept matter and reported no wrongdoing by Bolton. Virginia’s George Allen:

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN: The other side said, "We want a list of names. We want to see cross check," and got to Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller, the chair and the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. And so then there were a few of those names, cross-check that — nothing new there. And so then what comes up? Oh, now we want three dozen names we want cross-checked now, as the fishing expedition continues. And it is just going to continue and continue. It doesn’t matter what the answers are. It doesn’t matter what the truth is.

KWAME HOLMAN: Nevertheless, several Democrats this evening argued it was time for President Bush to send up the name of another nominee. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut:

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Is Mr. Bolton the kind of individual who we can trust to carry out the United States’ agenda at the United Nations at this critical juncture? Mr. President, I think not.

KWAME HOLMAN: However, President Bush still could get his man. He could install John Bolton as U.N. ambassador through a temporary recess appointment while Congress is away for the July 4 holiday. It would be a year-long term and would not require Senate approval.