On Thursday, the White House was dealt a tactical defeat as Senate Republicans fell four (actually three, since Sen. Frist changed his vote at the last moment for parliamentary reasons) votes short of the 60 needed to force John Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to a vote on the floor of the Senate, where it arrived without a positive recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few weeks ago. -- Though Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN) tried to frame the vote as Democrats reneging on a deal to forego filibusters, the real issue is secrecy: the Bush administration is refusing to release documents pertaining to Bolton's record as it pertains to "Bolton's role in 2003 in assessing whether Syria possessed weapons of mass destruction" and to "whether Bolton sought information about the identities of 19 Americans mentioned in 10 National Security Agency intercepts," the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday. -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested that it was the determination of Joe Biden (D-DE), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that led the Democrats to dig in their heels on the question of access to classified information; the Republicans, on the other hand, seemed to think they could either force a vote or blame Democrats for what Sen. Frist was "very, very disappointed" to call "another period of obstructionism by the other side of the aisle, and it looks like we have, once again, another filibuster." -- Bolton's confirmation will now be delayed until at least the second week in June. -- The New York Times noted that the fight over John Bolton's nomination has been "the sharpest in years over a nomination to a major foreign policy post, and it has been by far the most fractious fight over an American envoy to the United Nations" in the history of the nation. -- "The vote, at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, came at the end of 15 hours of speeches on the Senate floor that reflected bitter divisions between the parties," wrote Douglas Jehl. -- Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) is still vociferously opposing Bolton, and the Times reported that "Mr. Voinovich regarded Mr. Bolton as an obstacle to a promise the senator had made to his own children and grandchildren, in deciding to seek re-election to the Senate last year," which may explain the remarkable vehemence Sen. Voinovich has shown on this issue. -- A Knight Ridder report also emphasized Sen. Biden's principled stand as he "implored" the administration to release information the Senate has a right to see, and promised "to vote 10 minutes after we get back in session if in fact they provided the information." -- Voice of America called the Bolton delay "a major setback for President Bush" and gave prominence to Sen. Christopher Dodd's (D-CT) view that the importance of the release of information was linked to the way intelligence had been handled in the run-up to the Iraq war: "The issue goes far beyond the individualities at stake here. It goes to the heart of whether or not we are going to have credible intelligence upon which we as members of this Congress can believe and our allies around the world and those we seek to find support on various foreign policy matters will understand the purposes to which we are seeking their support. That is what I worry about more than anything else," said Sen. Dodd. ...
DEMOCRATS STALL CONFIRMATION VOTE FOR U.N. NOMINEE
By Bennett Roth
** Minority leader says White House refuses to provide key information **
May 26, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats forced a delay Thursday on the confirmation vote on John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, saying the White House won't release important information.
In the latest in a string of setbacks for President Bush, the Senate Republican leadership was unable to muster the votes to end debate and proceed with a confirmation vote on Bolton. The vote was 56-42, four votes less than the 60 required to cut off debate.
With Republicans accusing Democrats of continuing to block the president's appointments, the action could complicate efforts to enforce a truce on judicial filibusters negotiated this week.
Democrats said they were trying to force the administration to turn over intelligence information they have long sought -- not filibuster Bolton.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the administration wanted "to ignore the public's right to know and prevent Congress from making a fully informed decision. They want to be the judge and the jury."
But after the suspenseful vote, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Democrats broke the spirit of good will engendered with the agreement over the judges. "I'm very, very disappointed with where we sit today," he said.
The Democrats are seeking documents regarding Bolton's role in 2003 in assessing whether Syria possessed weapons of mass destruction. They also are asking for information on Bolton's handling of classified intelligence information from the National Security Agency.
Democrats have been investigating whether Bolton sought information about the identities of 19 Americans mentioned in 10 NSA intercepts. Such identities are rarely provided by the spy agency to even the highest federal officials.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Democrats were trying to determine whether Bolton sought reprisals against those who disagreed with him on intelligence matters.
During the two days of debate, Bolton was criticized by Democrats and well as by Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich as someone who lacked management skills and who has sought to distort intelligence to fit his conservative views.
The opposition by Voinovich forced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to take the unusual step of advancing the nominee for full Senate consideration without a positive recommendation.
DEMOCRATS STALL VOTE ON U.N. AMBASSADOR
By Bob Deans
May 27, 2005
http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/0505/27natbolton.html (registration required)
WASHINGTON -- Three days after reaching a compromise limiting filibusters on judicial nominees, Senate Democrats used a similar tactic to block a vote Thursday on whether to confirm John Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats opposed a motion to shut off debate on Bolton and Republicans were four votes shy of the 60-vote minimum required to bring the nomination to the floor.
As a result, a decision on whether to confirm Bolton will be delayed at least until senators return June 7 from their Memorial Day recess.
"I'm very, very disappointed," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Frist had planned a showdown earlier in the week over judicial filibusters that would have changed Senate rules to prevent them, but that move was thwarted by the compromise, which he opposed.
"What America has just seen is an engagement of another period of obstructionism by the other side of the aisle, and it looks like we have, once again, another filibuster," he said after Thursday's vote.
The White House suggested Democrats had betrayed a pledge not to delay President Bush's nominations.
"Just 72 hours after all the goodwill and bipartisanship in the Senate, it's a shame to see the Democratic leadership resort back to a partisan approach," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Democrats said they were reluctant to use the vote-blocking tactic on Bolton, and three involved in negotiating Monday's compromise on judicial votes -- Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana -- joined the Republicans in voting to end debate.
Others, however, said the vote against cutting off debate was the only tool remaining to press the Bush administration to turn over classified information Democrats deem essential to their review of Bolton's fitness for the U.N. post.
"We're not here to filibuster Bolton. We're here to get information on Bolton," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "We need to work together, but how can we work together when information is not supplied?"
Republicans have defended Bolton -- undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and an outspoken critic on the United Nations -- as the right man to spearhead badly needed reform of the world body. But in the two months since Bush nominated Bolton, several former senior Republican diplomats have accused him of bullying subordinates, dismissing dissenting views and trying to intimidate intelligence analysts who disagreed with his assessments of the weapons threats posed by countries such as Syria and Cuba. Bolton has denied the accusations.
Democrats have called on the administration to turn over the identities of 10 covert intelligence agents whose names Bolton sought after reviewing intelligence cables they sent to the State Department. Such names are routinely blacked out of the dispatches to protect the identity of clandestine agents from intercepts by foreign spies. The names are sometimes given to senior diplomats, however, when their requests can be justified to the intelligence community.
After the administration refused to supply the names, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, concluded they were not essential and that Bolton had done nothing wrong. But the panel's ranking Democrat, John Rockefeller of West Virginia, disagreed, and his fellow Democrats pushed his contention during nine hours of debate Thursday on the Senate floor.
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said Democrats would be prepared to vote on Bolton's nomination "the moment we get back" on June 7, if the administration provides the names to Roberts and Rockefeller, who are cleared to view classified materials.
Biden held out the prospect, however, that Democrats would continue to block the nomination if the information isn't forthcoming.
DEMOCRATS FORCE SENATE TO DELAY A VOTE ON BOLTON
By Douglas Jehl
New York Times
May 27, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Democrats forced the Senate on Thursday evening to postpone a vote on John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, demanding that the White House first hand over classified information about Mr. Bolton's conduct that it has refused for weeks to provide.
The move put off until at least June 7, when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day break, any decision on Mr. Bolton's nomination, and it set Democrats and Republicans in the Senate at odds once again just three days after they reached a compromise intended to avert filibusters on judicial nominations. Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, described himself as "very, very disappointed" by what Senator Harry Reid, the top Democrat, conceded was the "first filibuster of the year."
With Republicans holding a solid majority in the Senate, Mr. Bolton still appeared poised to win confirmation if his nomination is put to an up or down vote. But a Republican-led effort to end debate on Mr. Bolton tallied only a 56-to-42 majority, leaving Republicans 4 votes short of the 60 necessary to bring Mr. Bolton's nomination to a final roll call.
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who has led the fight against Mr. Bolton, said Democrats would agree to a floor vote on Mr. Bolton when the Senate returned from its recess. But Mr. Biden said Democrats would insist that the Bush administration first provide information the Senate has sought concerning a battle Mr. Bolton waged in the summer of 2003 over intelligence assessments on Syria, and the names of Americans given to Mr. Bolton by the National Security Agency as having been mentioned in intercepted communications.
The showdown on the Senate floor guaranteed more chapters to come in the political battle that has raged since Mr. Bolton was nominated by President Bush more than 11 weeks ago. The struggle has been the sharpest in years over a nomination to a major foreign policy post, and it has been by far the most fractious fight over an American envoy to the United Nations.
The White House expressed immediate dismay at the Senate's delay in the final vote over Mr. Bolton's nomination.
"Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship, it's disappointing to see the Democratic leadership resort back to such a partisan approach," said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. Asked about the Democratic demands for additional documents, Mr. McClellan said, "They have all the information they need."
The vote, at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, came at the end of 15 hours of speeches on the Senate floor that reflected bitter divisions between the parties. But with only one Republican, George R. Voinovich of Ohio, openly expressing opposition to Mr. Bolton, Mr. Biden ultimately portrayed the vote on whether to end debate not as a referendum on Mr. Bolton, but as a test of the Senate's willingness to "stand up for itself" in insisting on access to the information.
Mr. McClellan indicated that the White House was not considering a recess appointment of Mr. Bolton at this point because the Republican leadership in the Senate would try again to bring the nomination to a vote when the Senate returned.
Three Democrats -- Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana -- joined 53 Republicans in seeking to bring Mr. Bolton's nomination to a vote; 40 Democrats and one independent voted no on the motion to invoke cloture, as the Senate calls a bid to limit debate under its rules. Knowing that his side had lost, Senator Frist then cast his vote with the minority, bringing their total to 42. The move was a tactical gesture intended to allow him to call for another vote later. Mr. Voinovich sided with other Republicans in seeking to bring the matter to a vote, but also took the unusual step of returning to the Senate floor for a second day to echo in emotional terms a message he had first delivered on Wednesday about the potential damage to the American image around the world if Mr. Bolton were sent to the United Nations.
"When was the last time so many individuals have emerged from an administration to send warning signs to the U.S. Congress about an individual?" Mr. Voinovich asked, in a reference to former colleagues of Mr. Bolton who have voiced strong public opposition to him. Mr. Voinovich added, "We owe it to the United States, our children, and our grandchildren, to heed this warning, and to ask our president, 'Please, Mr. President, find a better candidate to send to the United Nations.'"
A spokeswoman for Mr. Voinovich, Marcie Ridgway, said Mr. Voinovich regarded Mr. Bolton as an obstacle to a promise the senator had made to his own children and grandchildren, in deciding to seek re-election to the Senate last year.
Throughout the prolonged confirmation battle, Mr. Bush and his aides have stood fast in defending Mr. Bolton against opponents who have charged, in particular, that he acted improperly in his treatment of subordinates and in seeking to shape intelligence estimates on Cuba, Syria and other issues to reflect his own views. But the White House has dismissed those claims as exaggerated, and has argued that Mr. Bolton's blunt manner will serve him well at the United Nations.
Among Mr. Bolton's supporters, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was among those who urged the Senate to cast aside the Democratic objections and vote on Thursday in favor of the nomination. "Elections have consequences," Mr. McCain said.
Among the critics, Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, warned that Mr. Bolton's confirmation would "send a dreadful, dreadful signal about our credibility to the world."
In addition, Mr. Dodd joined Mr. Biden in urging the Senate to stand firm in insisting that the administration provide it with the information on Syria and the intercepted communications that Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have sought unsuccessfully for more than a month.
"Aside from how you feel about Mr. Bolton, yes or no," Mr. Dodd said, "it's important, I think, for this institution to stand up for its rights."
The State Department has said that providing the information about the debate on Syria would have a "chilling effect" on future internal debates within the government. As for the intercepted communications, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the deputy director of national intelligence, briefed the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate intelligence committee two weeks ago about the reports from the National Security Agency about which Mr. Bolton had used his power as an under secretary of state to obtain additional highly classified information.
But General Hayden refused, on privacy grounds, to provide those senators with the names of 19 Americans mentioned in those reports, although Mr. Bolton had been able to obtain the names. Mr. Biden said that position was unacceptable, and reflected a mistrust of the Senate.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Dodd had insisted that their effort to prevent a final vote on Mr. Bolton on Thursday would not amount to a filibuster, on the ground that they would be willing to back down from their position if the administration provided the documents. But after the vote, Mr. Frist mocked that position, suggesting that the success of 42 senators in preventing a confirmation vote on Mr. Bolton "looks like a filibuster, sounds like a filibuster" and even "quacks like a filibuster."
Mr. Reid did not quarrel with that assessment, but added, "How can we work together when information is not supplied?"
DEMOCRATS FORCE DELAY OF SENATE VOTE ON BOLTON APPOINTMENT
By Jonathan S. Landay and James Kuhnhenn
May 26, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Citing lack of cooperation from the Bush administration, Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked the confirmation of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, promptly souring the bipartisan atmosphere set by an earlier agreement on judicial nominees.
Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and bring Bolton's confirmation up for a final vote.
Democrats insisted they were simply trying to compel the administration to release additional documents about Bolton, an outspoken critic of the world body and a past proponent of go-it-alone U.S. foreign policy.
"I implore the administration to provide the information," said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We are willing to vote 10 minutes after we get back in session if in fact they provided the information."
The vote came a day after the Senate overcame four years of Democratic delaying tactics to confirm Priscilla Owen of Texas as an appellate court judge. Owen was the first beneficiary of a new bipartisan agreement designed to limit the number of times Democrats used extended debate, or filibusters, to block judicial nominees.
The Bolton nomination wasn't part of that deal, but its timing made it a symbolic test of the week's new bipartisan goodwill.
"The very first issue we turned to, we got what to me looks like a filibuster," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "It certainly sounds like a filibuster. . . . It quacks like a filibuster. . . . What America has just seen is an engagement of another period of obstruction by the other side."
Three of the seven Democrats who negotiated the deal on the judicial nominees voted with Republicans to end the debate on Bolton: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Nelson and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who also helped broker the deal, worked fiercely on the Senate floor to secure more Democratic votes, but to no avail.
Overall, 57 senators voted to end the debate. But the official vote was 56-42 because Frist switched sides at the end of the roll call so he could move to have it reconsidered when the Senate returns on June 7.
Though Bolton was expected to win confirmation if his nomination were put up for a vote, he has been one of President Bush's most contentious nominees.
At issue are Bolton's temper and management style, charges that he wanted intelligence analysts punished for disputing his views, his disparagement of the United Nations and his close identification with the part of the Bush administration that favors a go-it-alone foreign policy.
"We need a credible spokesman at the United Nations, and Mr. Bolton's past conduct casts serious doubt on his ability to be one," said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md. "For the sake of the country, we can do better."
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the charges against Bolton amounted to "character assassination" and a "smokescreen" by critics seeking an excuse to attack Bush's foreign policy.
He said Bolton's achievements, experience and blunt manner made him the right person to represent the United States and champion much-needed reforms at the scandal-scarred United Nations.
Bolton is the only Bush choice for a senior position whose name has been sent by a Senate committee to a floor vote without recommendation, the result of surprisingly strong objections to Bolton voiced not only by Democrats during Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings but also by Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio.
Opposition to Bolton stemmed in part from statements he made in 1994 that the United Nations functioned only when there was U.S. leadership and that it wouldn't matter if the top 10 floors of its 39-story headquarters in New York were cut off.
But Bolton's biggest hurdles were charges that he tried to have a State Department intelligence analyst and a member of the National Intelligence Council, which produces intelligence assessments for the president, punished in 2002 for disputing his views on Cuba's biological warfare capabilities.
SENATE DEMOCRATS BLOCK CONFIRMATION OF U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE
By Deborah Tate
Voice of America
May 27, 2005
Senate Democrats have blocked a confirmation vote on the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a major setback for President Bush. The Senate will consider the nomination again when it returns from the Memorial Day recess next month.
The Senate late Thursday voted 56 to 42 to cut off debate on Mr. Bolton's nomination.
Republican leaders could not get the required 60 votes necessary in the 100-seat chamber to end debate and move to a confirmation vote.
"It does disappoint me," said Majority Leader Bill Frist.
The action comes after a contentious political battle over Mr. Bolton's nomination.
Democrats are united in their opposition to Mr. Bolton, whom they say is unfit to represent the United States at the world body.
They expressed concerns about allegations that Mr. Bolton, currently undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, sought to shape intelligence to meet ideological ends.
Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut said those allegations are particularly troubling in light of the faulty intelligence the United States used in making the case for war in Iraq. "The issue goes far beyond the individualities at stake here. It goes to the heart of whether or not we are going to have credible intelligence upon which we as members of this Congress can believe and our allies around the world and those we seek to find support on various foreign policy matters will understand the purposes to which we are seeking their support. That is what I worry about more than anything else," he said.
Senator Dodd and other Democrats are seeking classified documents from the administration they say could shed more light on whether Mr. Bolton tried to tamper with intelligence assessments.
Republican leaders say investigations into Mr. Bolton nomination have been exhaustive, and that the allegations against the nominee are overstated or unsubstantiated.
Republicans say Mr. Bolton is a determined reformer who is needed at the United Nations, especially in the wake of the UN oil-for-food scandal. "A vote for John Bolton is a vote for U.N. reform," said Senator Frist.
But Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, questions whether Mr. Bolton, an outspoken critic of the United Nations, is qualified to reform the world body. "Mr. Bolton's record suggests his personal animosity toward the United Nations is so great that he cannot effectively lead the charge of reform that can make this vital but deeply-flawed institution stronger and more effective," he said.
One Republican agrees with the Democrats' concerns. Senator George Voinovich of Ohio says Mr. Bolton's brusque manner could hamper U.S. efforts to mend ties with allies frayed after the Iraq war and other matters:
"I would like to point out that Mr. Bolton will be going to the United Nations to do more than just push forward U.N. reforms and sharp elbows. He is there to be the U.S. representative to the world. Do we really want the supreme quality of our next U.N. representative to the world to be sharp elbows? Don't we need a man with superior interpersonal skills who can bring people together, form coalitions and inspire other countries to agree with his point of view?" he said.
Thursday's Senate action comes just days after a bipartisan agreement averted a confrontation on President Bush's judicial nominees. Democrats agreed to allow several controversial nominees to get up-or-down votes while promising not to block other nominations except under extraordinary circumstances. Republicans agreed not to ban Democrats' ability to block the nominees.
Ahead of Thursday's vote, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who is credited with brokering the deal on the judicial nominees, unsuccessfully appealed to Democrats not to block Mr. Bolton's nomination. "I'm not asking my colleagues who disagree and do not want Mr. Bolton there. I respect their views. But let's go ahead and give him an up or down vote before we go into recess for a week," he said.
Majority Leader Frist says the Senate will reconsider the nomination when it returns from a week-long recess in early June.