- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

Democrats blocked an up-or-down vote on the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations yesterday, opening their first filibuster of the year three days after a bipartisan deal to avoid filibusters of judicial nominees.

Three Democrats and 53 Republicans comprised the 56 votes against the filibuster, but 60 votes are needed to force an up-or-down vote.

On the other side, 40 Democrats and one independent voted “no,” as did Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, who at the last minute voted against his own interests for technical reasons, so that he has the right to call for another vote after the Memorial Day recess.

“Actions speak volumes, and so does inaction,” Mr. Frist said. “Given the chance to advance the cause of comity in the Senate, the Democrats have chosen partisan confrontation over cooperation.”

Democrats insisted that they did not intend to actually block Mr. Bolton and want to give him an up-or-down vote. They said their objection is that the Bush administration has not provided two sets of documents sought for two months which they say could show whether Mr. Bolton “bullied” intelligence analysts.

“This is the first filibuster of the year, and maybe the last,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “I hope so.”

“It is a diversion, but it is not the fault of the Democratic senators that it is a diversion,” he added.

The White House blamed Democrats for squandering whatever good will resulted from this week’s earlier deal, in which seven Democrats committed to end filibusters of some judicial nominees and to only filibuster in “extraordinary circumstances” in the future in exchange for seven Republicans’ pledge not to vote to change the rules to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees.

“Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship in the Senate, it’s a shame to see the Democratic leadership resort back to a partisan approach,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Mr. McClellan ruled out a recess appointment.

“No, the Republican leadership is committed to bringing him back up for a vote,” Mr. McClellan said.

Mr. Bolton is undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, a position in which Democrats say he bullied intelligence analysts into distorting intelligence to bolster his claims.

Democrats want the administration to release e-mails and other documents concerning congressional testimony in 2003 on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction program and to release to select senators the names that Mr. Bolton sought from foreign communications intercepted by the National Security Agency.

There are enough votes to confirm Mr. Bolton if he receives an up-or-down vote, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and a persistent critic of Mr. Bolton, said it’s not clear whether that would change based on the information his party is seeking.

“I don’t know that. But I know that is possible. I’m not predicting that would happen.”

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate intelligence committee have reviewed the intercepts with the names redacted, and both said there is no reason to believe anything improper, with Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and committee chairman, calling the intercepts “almost pure vanilla.”

Republicans said Democrats never wanted to approve Mr. Bolton, and the new charges over intelligence are merely the latest excuse.

“The opposition to John Bolton started the day his nomination was announced,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican and one of Mr. Bolton’s chief defenders.

He said that Mr. Bolton answered questions for eight hours before the Foreign Relations Committee and submitted answers to 100 questions and that the committee heard from 29 witnesses and produced more than 1,000 pages of transcripts and received 800 pages of documents — all to answer questions Democrats had.

Though the agreement earlier this week applied only to judicial nominees, it is certain to tie up the Bolton nomination.

The three Democrats who voted against the Bolton filibuster were Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. They were among the seven Democrats who made the judicial nominations deal.

Senators quickly compared the situations, with Mr. Roberts saying Mr. Bolton was “in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ purgatory.”

Mr. Bolton’s nomination has bumped along the confirmation process for months. He was poised to pass out of committee until a late objection by Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican.

The committee met later and voted to send Mr. Bolton to the full Senate, but without the customary recommendation, because Mr. Voinovich said he could not support Mr. Bolton but didn’t want to block a floor vote. Mr. Voinovich voted against yesterday’s filibuster.

Complicating matters of cooperation, Republicans said Mr. Reid early in the day told Mr. Frist that there would be enough Democratic support for Mr. Bolton to prevent a filibuster. If Mr. Reid had accurate information when he told Mr. Frist that, some senators changed their minds as the day went on.

Rebecca Kirszner, Mr. Reid’s spokeswoman, said the situation changed.

“They talked this morning and then they talked throughout the day,” she said. “Throughout the day, it became clear that Frist would be unlikely to get 60 votes.”

She said her boss asked Mr. Frist to postpone the vote until after the weeklong recess, which he declined to do.

Mr. Frist served notice yesterday that he will call for a final vote on two judges who were guaranteed up-or-down votes under the judicial nominations agreement. The Senate will vote after its recess on the nominations of Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor to the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the District of Columbia and the 11th Circuit, respectively.

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