Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Congressional Democrats yesterday called President Bush’s recess appointment of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador an “abuse of power,” but said any ill will would not affect the prospects of his Supreme Court nominee, Judge John G. Roberts Jr.

“Each nomination’s unique,” said Rebecca Kirszner, a spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “The willingness of the White House to allow Congress to perform its duty is certainly a factor for all nominations.

“The Roberts nomination will be judged on its own merits,” she said.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is expected to help lead his party’s opposition to Judge Roberts, called Mr. Bush’s recess appointment “shameful and irresponsible” and lamented that the “cloak of secrecy from the White House continues.”

“It’s bad enough that the administration stonewalled the Senate by refusing to disclose documents highly relevant to the Bolton nomination,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It’s even worse for the administration to abuse the recess appointment power by making the appointment while Congress is in this five-week recess.”

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have demanded that the White House hand over classified documents that they think will shed light on accusations that Mr. Bolton harassed subordinates and pressured intelligence agents to present evidence to support the war in Iraq.

Mr. Bolton is the second of Mr. Bush’s nominees blocked over documents. The first was Miguel Estrada, the first of Mr. Bush’s appeals court nominees to face a filibuster, in 2003.

Judiciary Committee Democrats are seeking documents from Judge Roberts’ time as deputy solicitor general, and Democratic aides said Mr. Bush has seen how united their party can be when they think the administration is stonewalling on information.

“There’s little appetite in the Democratic caucus for further abuse of power by the president or stonewalling,” said one aide, adding that the party will be even more insistent on information about a Supreme Court nominee than they were about Mr. Bolton.

“Now, the ball is in Bush’s court. But, one sure way to keep the Democratic caucus together is for Bush to stonewall on information,” the aide said.

As for Mr. Bolton, Democrats said a recess appointment undercuts his ability to achieve Mr. Bush’s stated goal of reforming the United Nations.

“Mr. Bolton does not have the full confidence of the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. “This recess appointment will hurt our nation’s interests and hinder Mr. Bolton’s effectiveness.”

But Republicans said Democrats left Mr. Bush no choice.

“Although I would have preferred an up-or-down Senate confirmation vote on John Bolton … the president’s appointment of Secretary Bolton was necessary to ensure our representation at the United Nations and to provide momentum to the vital process of U.N. reform,” said Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and Foreign Relations chairman.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, noted that Mr. Bolton has won majority support from the Senate four times — although he never reached the 60-vote plateau necessary to break the Democratic filibuster.

“His nomination has been stymied in the name of politics,” Mr. Frist said. “My colleagues and I have consistently tried to reach a fair accommodation with the variety of requests that have been made, and yet the goal posts have kept moving.”

Sen. George V. Voinovich — the Ohio Republican who broke with his party by saying he couldn’t support Mr. Bolton — said he was disappointed with the recess appointment, but will stand behind the president’s decision.

“I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton’s baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations,” Mr. Voinovich said. “That said, the president has made this decision, and I will do everything in my power to support Mr. Bolton as he takes his new position.”

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