- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2005

The Democrats’ top senator on foreign policy yesterday doubted whether his party has the votes to sustain the filibuster of John R. Bolton, President Bush’s nominee as ambassador to the United Nations.

Democrats have held up a final vote on Mr. Bolton, demanding that the White House release documents they say will shed more light on charges that the nominee bullied subordinates at the State Department and pressured intelligence agents to bring him information that would justify the invasion of Iraq.

But Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he doubted his anti-Bolton caucus would be able to hold together indefinitely.

Asked whether there were enough votes to keep the filibuster going, Mr. Biden said: “I don’t know.”

“I’m going to be completely straight with you,” he said. “I’m not at all certain we do.”

Senate Republicans failed in their attempt last week to invoke “cloture” and end debate on Mr. Bolton’s nomination — which takes the support of 60 senators — when only three of the Senate’s 45 Democrats would agree.

If a vote is held on the nomination this week, both Mr. Biden and another of Mr. Bolton’s key Senate critics said the nominee would be confirmed.

“He’ll probably be able to win the vote, somewhere between 45 and 47 votes against, and [President Bush] will think it’s a victory,” Mr. Biden said, adding that the lack of broad Democratic support will “reduce the confidence in this administration” on the world stage.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, agreed with Mr. Biden.

“I suspect that to be the case,” Mr. Dodd said on CNN’s ‘Late Edition.’ “My read is, based on the cloture vote we had before we left [for a weeklong break after Memorial Day], is that John Bolton would probably have the votes for confirmation if we can get beyond this request for additional information.”

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican whose job it is to count votes, was more cautious than the Democrats in his prediction.

“The issue here is whether we’ll get to 60,” Mr. McConnell said on ‘Late Edition.’ “I think Chris’ assessment is correct. It’ll be up to the Democrats as to whether or not [Mr. Bolton] is given a chance to have an up-or-down vote. And if he gets one, he’ll be confirmed.”

But the White House has refused to provide the documents, claiming the Senate has been given more than 800 pages of documents and has enough information to make a judgment of Mr. Bolton’s fitness for office.

“The bottom line here is the president can probably stiff us,” Mr. Biden said. “The president can probably refuse to give us this information, which we’re completely entitled to as the United States Senate, and that’s the reason we’re not letting the vote go forward.”

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