- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

John R. Bolton’s nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations careened off track yesterday after a last-minute objection by a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee helped Democrats delay a final vote.

“I’ve heard enough today that I don’t feel comfortable voting for Mr. Bolton,” Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, told stunned fellow Republicans after about an hour of Democratic accusations against Mr. Bolton.

Republicans had gone into the meeting thinking they had enough votes to move Mr. Bolton forward for expected passage in a Senate vote, but Mr. Voinovich’s potential defection, combined with all eight Democrats’ opposition, would have killed the nomination on a tie vote.

Chairman Richard G. Lugar agreed to put off a final vote, which Democrats had tried but failed to do before Mr. Voinovich’s objection, until after the Senate returns from a recess the second week in May.

“The senator from Ohio was a gift to the opposition,” Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said after the vote. “The reality was, a 9-9 vote would have killed that nomination. It wasn’t worth getting a 9-9 vote, so you live to fight another day.”

White House officials think Mr. Bolton will weather the delays.

“John Bolton is exactly the person we need at the United Nations. We’re confident he will be confirmed,” press secretary Scott McClellan said. “There are some Senate Democrats on the committee who continue to raise unfounded allegations. John Bolton testified for more than eight hours, he responded to a large number of written questions following his testimony. We believe he has addressed the issues.”

Mr. McClellan drew a distinction between the partisan politics of Democrats and the position of Republicans such as Mr. Voinovich, who he said “continue to have some questions,” and said the administration will work to answer those questions.

Democrats have accused Mr. Bolton of bullying a handful of lower-level government employees on a series of occasions, including trying to influence information that intelligence analysts approved for use in a speech he gave. Democrats have called for more time to investigate and tried to force a delay.

Yesterday, they first objected to allowing the committee to meet, then forced the Senate to recess for nearly two hours to comply with seldom-enforced rules about committees meeting while the Senate is in session. They then tried to force a closed session of the committee to air the complaints about Mr. Bolton, but that was defeated on a party-line 10-8 vote.

Almost forgotten during the debate were Democrats’ initial complaints that Mr. Bolton was unfit for service because of past comments he made, taking a tough line on what the United Nations can accomplish and criticizing the U.N. bureaucracy.

Mr. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said he saw “a sense of delay, almost hopeful delay, that something might turn up” in Democrats’ strategy.

But Democrats decried the pressure to vote quickly.

“I think the only thing that will produce a filibuster is this: the idea that there is such urgency in a matter of days to get John Bolton to the United Nations at this moment is somewhat beyond me,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the committee.

Mr. Voinovich admitted he missed the two committee hearings on Mr. Bolton when some of the charges were aired last week, and apologized several times in the meeting.

“Maybe it would be in the best interest of this committee to take a little bit more time,” he said, adding that he agreed with Mr. Biden in this case. “On occasion, he gets political, but I think today he’s very sincere about his concerns about this. And I think we all ought to get some more information about this man before we vote him out of this committee.”

Mr. Voinovich wasn’t the only Republican who appeared uncomfortable going forward with a vote yesterday. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island also seemed to favor a delay.

Democrats had targeted Mr. Chafee in particular as someone they could sway to vote against Mr. Bolton, though Mr. Chafee has consistently said he was inclined to support Mr. Bolton.

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