KWAME HOLMAN: Most Senate Republicans hoped to clear John Bolton's nomination before the end of the day, the beginning of their week-long Memorial Day recess.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Let's go ahead and let him get to work rather than wait a week or ten days or more. We've been at this for weeks. Let's move on to other things.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Senate Democrats opposed to Bolton wanted to postpone the vote.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY: We can and should do far better than John Bolton.
KWAME HOLMAN: They argued that critical and possibly damning materials documenting Bolton's use of intelligence as a State Department official were being withheld by the Bush administration.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER: We should delay this until we see that information because it's a matter of right and wrong. It is right for us to get that information; it is wrong for the administration to withhold it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats have sought the classified documents for weeks. They contain the names of U.S. officials whose secret communications were intercepted by the National Security Agency and later passed on to Bolton at the State Department at his request. But Arizona Republican Jon Kyl argued that the senior members of the Intelligence Committee from both parties investigated the matter and said they could find no wrongdoing by Bolton.
SEN. JON KYL: This is all a smoke screen. There's nothing there. And the last point on this matter had to do with the fact that this Senate, it is alleged, should have access to all of these names. This has nothing to do with Mr. Bolton's qualifications to be the United States representative at the United Nations, but there's some feeling that until senators have access to these names, we shouldn't act on the Bolton nomination. Talk about a non sequitur.
KWAME HOLMAN: The path Bolton's nomination took to the Senate floor has been anything but smooth. At his confirmation hearing in April, Bolton, currently undersecretary for arms control, was questioned repeatedly about charges he verbally abused subordinates and battled with superiors over the aggressive public positions he took on Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH: John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
KWAME HOLMAN: Ohio Republican George Voinovich has become an outspoken critic of Bolton's, and this week sent a letter to all 99 Senate colleagues arguing that Bolton's confirmation could jeopardize the nation's ability to win the war on terror and stifle reforms at the United Nations. Voinovich spoke emotionally on the Senate floor yesterday.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH: At a strategic time when we need friends all over the world, we need somebody up there that's going to be able to get the job done. And I know some of my friends say: "Let it go, George. It is going to work out." I don't want to take the risk. I came back here and ran for a second term because I am worried about my kids and my grandchildren. And I just hope my colleagues will take the time before they get to this well, do some serious thinking about whether we should send John Bolton to the United Nations.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Democrats today remained solidly opposed to Bolton.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: What message it sends to the analyst community, what message it sends to our allies, what message it sends to our adversaries for that matter, around the globe -- that this individual who engaged in such reprehensible behavior, in my view, should be given the position of U.N. ambassador to represent the United States at this critical hour, I think is a massive mistake.
KWAME HOLMAN: But several Republicans today came to Bolton's defense, arguing his blunt, sometimes-abrasive style was just what was needed at the United Nations. New Hampshire's Judd Gregg:
SEN. JUDD GREGG: The fact is you've got to be aggressive and you've got to be willing to assert your views and the views that you're projecting as a representative of this country if you're going to be effective in making the case for this nation. And John Bolton will accomplish that at the U.N., in my opinion.
KWAME HOLMAN: This evening, the Senate moved toward a vote that would decide whether to cut off debate and clear Bolton's nomination for a final vote or let it linger until members return in June.