The White House yesterday gave its strongest hint yet that President Bush will bypass the Senate and appoint John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations shortly after Congress recesses.
“We do need a permanent representative at the United Nations. This is a critical time and it’s important to continue moving forward on comprehensive reform,” Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. “Clearly, John Bolton is someone who has enjoyed majority support from the United States Senate, but unfortunately Senate Democrats have taken the path of playing politics.”
The United Nations will open its next General Assembly in September, “and it’s important that we get our permanent representative in place,” Mr. McClellan said.
In another sign that Mr. Bolton could soon receive a recess appointment, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told PBS’ “News Hour” on Thursday night: “What we can’t be is without leadership at the United Nations … we need our permanent representative to the United Nations,” she said.
Miss Rice, who said she is spending “an awful lot of time these days” preparing for the next U.N. session, echoed the president’s call that the Senate vote on the nomination. The Senate, however, is likely to recess without voting on Mr. Bolton.
Senate Democrats have refused to allow a floor vote on Mr. Bolton, charging that he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his views while the top U.S. diplomat for arms control.
In procedural votes in May and June, Democrats denied Republicans the 60 votes needed from the 100-member Senate to close debate on Mr. Bolton and move to a confirmation vote, which would require a simple majority.
“A recess appointment is not in the interest of the country,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat. “Mr. Bolton does not have the full confidence of the Senate. Sending him to the U.N. without the Senate’s approval would send a mixed message to friend and foe alike.”
Democrats this week pounced on a State Department acknowledgment that Mr. Bolton gave Congress inaccurate information when he said on a disclosure form that he had not been questioned or provided information to jury or government investigations in the past five years.
The State Department said Thursday that Mr. Bolton had been interviewed by the agency’s inspector general as part of a joint investigation on intelligence lapses that led to Mr. Bush administration’s pre-Iraq war assertion that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger.
“When Mr. Bolton completed his form during the Senate confirmation process, he did not recall being interviewed by the State Department inspector general,” department spokesman Sean McCormack said. “Therefore his form as submitted was inaccurate in this regard and he will correct the form.”
Officials have said Mr. Bolton was not interviewed in special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said Mr. Bolton’s admission was “too little, too late” and urged Mr. Bush to withdraw the nomination.
If Mr. Bush chooses to use a recess appointment, Mr. Bolton would be able to serve until January 2007, when a new Congress is sworn in.